Why good PR is about more than just a press release

So, you’ve got a big event coming up, won an award, seen sales soar or you are starting to launch a new product? You just need to send out a press release right?

When it comes to PR there is a lot more to getting good coverage then writing a press release and sending it out. As a trained journalist I have worked both as a reporter picking up those company press releases and as a press officer sending out pitches to gain coverage.

It is true that having a well written press release goes a long way to getting coverage these days as in busy newsrooms reporters don’t have the time to hunt out your story but it isnt simply words that you need. Don’t underestimate what else goes into turning a good story into coverage and what a ‘good’ release actually looks like.

Having a good story is only a small part of actually achieving great coverage. Unfortunately busy news rooms are inundated with stories with many regional business pages receiving 10 times the amount of news they can publish each week. Follow these top tips to make sure your story stands out for the right reasons.

Tailor to specific media

General press releases which can be sent to any media rarely work. A press release needs to be written with the target publication in mind taking in to consideration their geographical area, interests, audience and style. Write your piece as if you are writing it for that publication.

Timing is key

Do your research what is your target publication’s deadlines? Are there any other key dates in the area at that time? There is no point sending a great story on the day of publication as you may have missed an opportunity and your story could be too late by the next deadline. Equally if there is a large announcement, such as Brexit, around that time it may get lost so better to send the week before or after to get more chance of coverage.

Relationship

Forging a good relationship with the journalists you are sending the press release too makes a big difference. They are more inclined to tell you about upcoming feature opportunities, ask you for quotes when they need them on a relevant topic and work with you on getting coverage.

Never presume

Once you have sent out a release it is always worth checking that it has been received. Newspapers have busy inboxes and there is always a chance your press release could get missed however well written so make sure that they have seen it and if they want any more information.

Right person

The benefits of having a PR professional prepare and send out a press release for you is that they will have worked in the industry and have an insight into how to get your coverage noticed. They can write a release as the journalist would and then send it to the right people. If you have a press release written for you which you then send out it relies on you having the right contact. This is fine if you have contacts with your chosen media but if you then have to find contacts there are no guarantees it is written in the right style for that media or that you are sending the release to the right person.

Pitch

Sum up your story in one sentence. Why does the newspaper, radio station, tv, want to use your story? What makes it unique and stand out from any other story they have today, this week? When you tell the media about your release what you say is crucial in deciding whether it goes in the ‘we need this’ or ‘something to look at if nothing else comes in’ pile.

Press release not always the only option

Although press releases are the most often used mechanism of getting your message out they are not the only one. Sometimes a story will be better received and create greater exposure by arranging a briefing with a journalist or press call. Do you want journalists to come to your event? Do you need a photo call for a photographer to get quality shots of a newsworthy event? By using a PR professional, they can help to come up with a strategy that incorporates all of the elements you need for maximum effect.

Have you been SMART with your goals and clear in what you want to achieve?

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related) goals make sure that your coverage gets the results you are looking for. What is your reason for sending out a press release? If you are a micro business just setting out and looking to gain local media coverage to raise awareness in your area your goals might be quite clear. However, if you are looking for a strategic approach to targeting a specific audience then sending something out to someone will rarely get good results.  Be clear on what you want to achieve, what the article or coverage should look like, what is success and how can you measure that. A poorly judged piece of coverage can be catastrophic to a business – creating confusion, negative headlines and even reputational damage that can take months even years to repair.

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