Ask Joy: Help! My Press Releases aren’t working
I have put out not one, not two but three press releases in the past year. I’ve paid big money for news wire distribution, have faxed the releases directly to newsrooms and emailed it to editors. You’d think I would have gotten at least one article or interview. Nope. I’ve gotten absolutely zero response other than my friends and family “liking” the link on my Facebook page.
I remember my granddad saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Guess what? I’m starting to feel insane! I’m not giving up. I want to keep pushing but I need to start pushing in the right direction.
Do you have any suggestions on what to do to better my chances with my press releases? Or do you have any alternatives that might actually work?
Ms. Release Me,
You may not know this but, you just asked me about one the biggest debates waging in public relations right now. The 21st century’s shiny sexy tech has made my profession start questioning the relevancy of certain traditional PR tools. Press releases are at the top of the questioned list.
We’re more interconnected than ever before through mobile phones, social media and internet publishing. With so much connectivity, my peers and I often wonder if press releases work for the average individual. It’s easy for a Fortune 500 company to get mileage from a news release since they’re legally obligated to notify the public of certain things. How the average individual, who is not on the NYSE, gets noticed is a completely different matter.
PR pros are getting as heated about this as sci-fi fanboys can get about Battlestar Gallactica versus Star Trek.
I don’t hate press releases. They are still extremely useful when you are skilled at what to do with them, like any PR professional worth their salt is. For non-PR pros, however, news releases shouldn’t be the basket in which you put all your eggs. The world and wires are oversaturated with faux news.
Everyone knows what a press release is. Often, it’s the only PR term or tool that people do know. Therefore, it’s the one thing that everyone wants to put out into the world when they start a campaign about every little thing. Compound this with the arrogance that most people have about their release and you get masses of humans assuming that their news is the best news since sliced bread and will miraculously end up of the Times’ front page.
The result is entirely too much needless noise and competition. So, let’s look at how regular folks can break through the noise.
Direct, consistent pitching should a pinnacle of your campaign. That means, you need to always look for ways to directly contact and connect to your audience. News releases, social media, personal websites, and the like should be complements to that pitch push. You need to: 1) Get serious about what you have that’s newsworthy, 2) Figure out who thinks it’s newsworthy and, 3) Use traditional and modern ways to uniquely connect to those key audiences.
There are two questions that need to be asked and resolved before any campaign starts: “So what,” and “Who cares?” These queries aren’t intended to discourage you. They should make sure you steer the bus in the right direction. You should first make sure your news is news, meaning something timely and relevant. If it is news, you then need to determine who it is news for- this will make sure you’re aiming for your actual target audience.
Once those answers are known, it’s time to figure out where your target audiences (i.e., those that care) are so you can reach them. You have to directly reach out to what they read, watch, and listen to in order to connect with them. Write your press release. In fact, write it for your audience and those key media markets.
Use the release as a complement to your grander pitching efforts. Contact journalists directly. If they like your pitch, they’ll probably ask you to send the info and press release so, it’s good to have one ready. Sending the press release is a great way to follow up on a conversation but also use it in conjunction with something modern, fun, and expected.
One of my favorite newer things is the blogger briefing. Movies, politicians, and police forces call press conferences all the time. Regular folks rarely get to call a room full of anticipatory media but tech has created an opportunity. The blogger briefing allows you to do a press conference 2.0, virtually and effectively.
You can hold it through a phone conference line but I would recommend a video conference so that you can have the visual element. Make sure your conference format has the power to share files and presentation materials like you can with GoToMeeting. Blogger briefings have so many advantages. It’s live and intimate without required travel to a particular offline site and people can be in any part of the world. If you get really savvy, you can take it one step further and coordinate a briefing for each of your relevant times zones, such as one for the UK and another for Australia.
Remember, in order to be irreplaceable you should always be different. I didn’t come up with that; it’s a famous quote from Coco Chanel and it’s still true. Take something old, something new and combine them to make something that is your own.
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