When was the last time you, or your PR company, sent out a press release to the media and got cranky that nothing was published? And your reaction was, "Bloody media! It's the damn journalist’s fault – they just don’t understand my business and they don’t get how important this announcement is."
Stop, take a breath and think a little. It's nothing personal. It's likely that you issued a press release that was the equivalent of announcing "the sun came up this morning." So what? It does that every morning. Zero news value. It only becomes news when the headline reads "No sun rise today – moon announces hostile takeover." That's news.
Journalists, like most people these days, are short on time and resources. So too are the audiences they write for. So if your press release didn’t elicit any interest from the journalists you sent it to, then you need to figure out why.
The first question you should ask yourself is, “is this really newsworthy”? I’ve lost count of the number of press releases I’ve seen that contain nothing at all of note. So before you plough ahead and bang out a press release, ask yourself honestly, “Is this really news? Does it really warrant a press release”?
The second question you should ask yourself? Is your release relevant to the media you intend sending it to? The tendency is to assume that because a story is important to you, it’s important to everyone. Or do you blast out a release to all and sundry, hoping that someone will pick it up? Did you ever consider how many releases the average journalist receives in a day and how totally irrelevant 90% of them are to that journalist’s audience? So make sure the media outlet you send your release to, does actually talk to an audience that is likely to be interested in your “news”.
A journalist’s first loyalty is to their reader. Everything they write must be relevant to their target audience. Yes there are a few media outlets that will print or post stuff because you spend money with them. And there are others that will just print anything that’s sent to them. But audiences aren’t stupid. They know if they are being fed bullshit and sooner or later they turn to media sources they consider are reliable and relevant. In other words, media sources where the journalists and editors have a strong understanding of their audiences’ needs.
To maximise the chance of your media release appearing in public, understand that any release or communication you send has to be targeted and relevant. If you pump out releases to all and sundry, it’s no more than spam. That annoys people, and will receive the consideration it deserves from editors – they’ll file it straight into the trash. And the next time they see something from you, they may not even bother scanning it – they'll just hit the delete key.
Far too many companies fail to understand this and work on the basis that the more releases they send out, the more likely they are to get media coverage. Wrong. Remember the story about the boy that cried wolf? If you cry wolf too many times, your voice ceases to be heard, which means when you do have something important to say, the people that you need to say it to will have long since stopped listening.
Lastly, think about your news from the audience’s perspective. What’s of interest to the publication’s audience about your “news”? That’s what a good journalist will be looking for. So you’ve hired a new person, got a fancy new logo or launched a new product. That might be important news to you. But what is it about that news that’s important to the reader of the publication you want to reach out to? What’s the “so what” factor?
Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself “why would they be interested in my story?” What’s in it for them? And write your release accordingly.
Three simple questions
So next time, before you put together a press-release full of pithy self-congratulation and barely concealed sales pitches, stop and ask yourself three simple questions. Is it really news? Is the media I’m sending it to relevant to my message? Have I got something that’s of interest to that publication’s audience?
Answer all of those questions with a yes, and there’s a good chance that your press release will actually get some cut through. Answer any with a “no”, and chances are your press-release will wind up straight in the trash basket.