Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Before sending your Press release....

Non-Profit Execs beware...Here's a fabulous article I just fund that tells it all when planning your next media release:

Despite a recent survey’s findings, laying the groundwork is key to your pitch’s success

Seventy-five percent of journalists find well-targeted news releases with high-quality content useful, according to a new survey of 750 journalists conducted by Oriella PR Network, an alliance of 15 PR agencies around the world.

Surveys like this drive me crazy. Out of all the press releases journalists receive, they find the well-written, relevant ones most useful. Really?

Do they want to receive news releases? Do they find news releases the best source of information for finding story ideas? No and no.

While the news release isn’t going away anytime soon, I can’t believe how many people still think it’s an effective form of communication (especially if you’re trying to interest a journalist in writing about you). Take a break from this blog post, and head over to one of the news wire services to read today’s headlines. Let me know when you find a release you’d like to write about if you were a journalist.

What’s the alternative?

You know what works better than a press release? Try having a real conversation with a journalist—when you’re not under the gun trying to score coverage for a client. Learn what they write about and when to contact them. Learn what they hate about PR people. Learn how their organization works.

Don’t rely on “pitch tips” in media databases, and don’t assume you know what a journalist covers because you’ve read one story they wrote.

If you’re relying on news releases for publicity coverage, you’re never going to generate any level of meaningful coverage. Never. That’s not where the great stories come from.

Here are some other tips I’ve found useful:

  • Blog. Your blog is your own media outlet. Share everything you can think of about your industry, passion, company, products and services. Don’t make it too commercial, or nobody will care. On the other hand, you’ll be surprised by how many people actually care about the widgets you make. Journalists read your content when they’re looking for sources, too.
  • Meet. Seek out journalists at conferences and events. Attend networking events in your area that journalists are known to attend (a local press club or media freelance network, for example). Don’t attend to pitch them a story; attend to meet them. Just be yourself. Try not to act like the stereotypical PR person. If you don’t know what I mean, you’re probably acting like one.
  • Listen. I’ve said it time and time again, but follow and engage with journalists through Twitter and other social media. You can learn so much about their interests and preferences by getting involved in the conversation. Don’t be a stalker. Listen and learn. If you pay attention, you’ll come across more opportunities than you can imagine.
  • NO. Don’t send out news releases that suck. This might not sound like advice on how to increase your coverage, but it is. If you send crap to journalists, they remember. When you have something newsworthy to share, they won’t see it (because you’re on a PR spammer list or they’ve marked you as a person to ignore). If you are asked to write a news release that is missing “news,” or chock full of gobbledygook, figure out a different angle or don’t send it.
  • Target. Whether you’re pitching a story on the phone, via Twitter, at a cocktail party or via a press release, make sure you’ve got the right outlet and contact. Why waste your time pitching an outlet that’s never going to cover your news? The Wall Street Journal doesn’t care that you launched the latest version of your accounting software or that you celebrated you’ve been in business now for 10 years.

As a closing thought, think objectively about survey data. Use your noggin. Although the fact 75 percent of journalists find news releases valuable sounds great, that doesn’t mean 75 percent of journalists want to read your release.

Then again, if it’s relevant to what they cover and it’s well written, maybe they do.

Jeremy Porter is a veteran public relations professional with more than 10 years of experience developing and managing strategic public relations programs for clients. He is the founder of Journalistics.com.