Press Releases – Why are They So Misunderstood?
What press releases can and can’t do for your PR goals
Whenever people think about public relations, they think about the press release. A good press release is a public relations staple, but it’s truly misunderstood. Let’s explore why your organization should use a press release, where you should share it, and what kind of results you can expect once you post your release.
Press Releases – PR 101
Press releases are part of a strong PR strategy, but it’s vital to remember they are only part of the strategy, and how you use them depends on your goals for outreach.
What makes a strong release? Quality counts. Limit your release to one topic and choose one or two concise quotes. Keep it simple and well-written. A well-written release will answer the who, what, when, where, and why. People sometimes forget to ask the bigger question, “Who really cares about this information, and why is it important to share it?”
Check out our post on eight traits that make your news newsworthy to delve deeper into what the media wants. If you’re seeking press coverage, your release needs to be about something newsworthy, so check out those eight traits and make sure your announcement has at least one of them before you share the release to the wire.
And what exactly is “the wire?”
There are many online wire services to post your release. These services are paid placement sites that distribute your release and archive it for future reference. Your release can be found through most search engines and lives online for the foreseeable forever.
Wire services do their job, which is to make your release readily available to the public. What a wire placement seldom does is garner great coverage. Journalists don’t have time to sift through thousands of releases on several wire services to find stories of interest. They’re incredibly busy.
Clients often come to us asking for help because they’ve posted numerous releases on a wire service with zero media placements. Our CEO, Paul Wilke, tells clients, “The only people who a press release on the wire are the people who wrote, proofed, and approved the release and the person at the wire service who authorized it to post live.” That’s kind of depressing, but it’s vital to grasp that wire services have a purpose, and it’s not about getting media coverage.
So why take the time, effort and expense to write and post a press release if it probably won’t get media attention?
Press releases do have their purpose. They aren’t going away. Once you understand how they can fit into your strategy, they have value. The act of writing a release helps organizations get internal buy-in on messaging. EVERYONE likes providing feedback on a press release. Once the leadership and communications teams all agree, the message is ready to share with others in your organization, and it helps the entire team stay on message. Besides the team-building exercise and getting everyone to sing the same song, there are a few more excellent reasons to create a strong release.
- First, you control the message. Your release says precisely what your target audience needs to know. The message is available for your customer service, sales, and marketing teams to use as a resource to share news with clients or prospects. Your team can refer back to it, and any links you’ve put in the release direct readers right where you want them to land.
- Next, sharing announcements and company news spotlights your organization; most likely, the competition and others who follow your company will be aware of what you’re doing. Releases do show up in search engines, and if the players in your space monitor your company or vertical, they will likely find and read your release.
- Sometimes posting a release may be obligatory or part of the company culture, like announcing quarterly earnings, senior hires, or board appointments.
- And finally, the release can be repurposed as content for your blog and social media. It’s easy for others in your company to share it on their social media too. A timely release allows you to make your own news and send your message through your internal and external channels.
So as long as you’re not expecting media coverage, these are all great reasons to post a press release to the wire.
But I really want media coverage?
A release can play into the bigger goal of getting a news story out there when it’s paired with other strategies. This is where a PR professional can help. Getting your news covered will probably take a lot more effort than posting a press release. PR is a long game, built on trust and relationships – something your PR team or public relations agency has hopefully been working on as part of a holistic strategy long before your release hits the wire. And if you’ve just jumped into the PR playground, patience is critical. Coverage comes with time and effort.
Our Upright team works to find the story – one of those eight traits we talked about in this post – and then we carefully select the journalists we think might find the story interesting for their audience and reach out to them. Usually, this takes multiple pitches and refining the message. We share nuggets not found in the release, something that can make the journalist’s story unique. The press release is always there as a resource, even if we change the narrative around the story for different journalists and story ideas.
Journalists like press releases when the information makes their job easier. Adding a link to a relevant release offers insight and shares the key details with the journalist. Releases can save a journalist time. They don’t have to ask about the basics before they delve into what interests them about your story. The more well-written press releases are, the more helpful they become for journalists who want to know more about your topic.
Ready to brainstorm PR strategy for your organization and learn how press releases and other PR tactics can shine the spotlight on your company? Reach out to us at Uptake@Uprightcomms.com.
And be sure to check out all of our Upright Uptake episodes and resource posts for more helpful PR tips. And if you have a topic you’d like us to cover or a question for us, reach out anytime; we’d love to hear from you.