There are people out there – lots of people – who want to do the lowly news release in once and for all. 

Publicity…Everything Changes But the Tool

Andy Marken | Marken Communications Inc.

July 2010

Publicity…Everything Changes But the Tool

1Author: Andy Marken, Marken Communications Inc.

 

There are people out there – lots of people – who want to do the lowly news release in once and for all. 

A good acquaintance of ours, Tom Foremski, gave sound reasons for feeding them to the lions several years ago. 

Tom wanted the old, shameless boss sucking up, acronym bit bucket release to die.   You know the throw-away quote that says how brilliant he/she is.  The constant stream of letters that drives you to Wikipedia to decipher.

He asked/pleaded/demanded that people cut to the meat and leave the fat on the side. 

For all the other information, he suggested that folks use links.  He also wanted publicists to learn how to use SEO (search engine optimization) and use it … religiously.

Foremski’s issues with releases were reinforced by a recent journalist survey that showed releases were still effective… assuming the content is "high quality and well targeted.”

Sheess…sounds like work!


Assuming the content is high quality and
Well targeted, which do you find useful
to receive?
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Source:  Digital Journalism Study 2010

Now that we have a growing crop of public relations/social media specialists, things should be getting better for editors, reporters, bloggers, journalists.  

Naw!!!

Quality hasn’t changed but quantity has “improved.”

It comes by email (embedded and attached) by the gigabyte (a huge bunch of data). 

It comes by the most fashionable social media. 

Some still comes by fax and smail!

Shotgunning a lot of the stuff doesn’t mean people think it’s very important.  Just means you don’t have an idea and bandwidth is so cheap so…

You’re simply insulting a journalist’s intelligence with stuff that is poorly written, incomplete, laden with incomprehensible acronyms and so self-serving that the “works of creativity” do the firm more harm than good.

Ask your favorite reporters, editors, webmasters, bloggers.

Even with filters, they’re getting 200-400 “releases” a day.  Fortunately, most are electronic so they can go immediately into the trash can without having to be recycled.  

The first to hit the can are weak, amateurish, simply incomprehensible.

Other commonly voiced complaints about publicity efforts include:

  • People who still feel they have to overnight a release or use electronic receipt verification to make certain the writer gets it
  • People who insist on reading a release over the phone to an editor
  • People who simultaneously give a release to every editor at the media outlet
  • People who call to ask if it’s okay to send a release or to make certain it was received
  • People who include everything in the release including the gruesome/boring details rather than something short, succinct with hyperlinks to details
  • People who don’t have a clue about what the product does or what the journalist does/covers for that matter

Electronic distribution is so much easier – and less expensive – than old-fashioned smail that everyone deserves his/her copy … just in case.

The Military has an elegant name for it … carpet-bombing.

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The irony is that even after more than 30 years of doing this stuff, complaints still include:

  • meaningless personal notes with the release
  • people who request that no changes be made to the copy
  • people who want clippings of the published release
  • people who make no bones about pointing out the fact that their client or firm is also an advertiser
  • people who suddenly discover they true hidden talent for writing/placing company “masterpieces”  since they have hundreds reading their blog, thousands of Twitter stockers

Even as the landscape and time available to a journalist to do his/her job shrinks, the issues continue to surface.

Fortunately, newsbeat people now have more sources – some more credible than others – at their fingertips:

  • search engines to search for specific subjects
  • trusted blogs they visit daily
  • inputs, ideas from social media sites
  • people who make themselves available to assist, explain, clarify

Somewhere in that research and the stuff publicists provide are the germs of a story idea, an industry issue they can cover.

Powerful Tool

Even with the popularity of social media, good publicity or news release handling can be a powerful part of a company's total communications program. 

It can get information on the firm's hardware/software developments, product introductions, applications news, services, key management changes and financial results where it will do everyone the most good … in the media. 

One good item on top of another on top of another can be the springboard for more major coverage.

A well-organized, well-executed publicity program that is integrated into the firm's total communications strategy can reap solid results.

It can:

  • Make potential business partners, consumers aware of the company, its products, programs
  • Highlight the firm’s direction, focus, capabilities
  • Pave the way for sales
  • Help explore potential new markets
  • Build relations with present customers
  • Attract quality personnel to the firm

Pretty good benefits.

So why is a company willing to jeopardize its relations with media professionals? 

Mediocrity can’t be the best you can do! 

Especially since all they ask you to do is:

  • have a news area on your web site they can find quickly, easily in one location
  • have backgrounders, fact sheets, photos, videos, quotes, ppts available
  • tag  your information
  • make yourself available to them 24x7 … just in case

That’s not so tough.

Basic Guidelines

Over the years, the media landscape has changed.  But the true professional journalists are still excellent researchers, writers … regardless of the ultimate medium! 

The difference is, now they don’t simply file a story.  

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They also have to post a blog note, add an item to their outlet’s social media page, often add a video segment to attract and keep the audience numbers high.

With more work than time, they aren’t interested in deciphering and putting spark/life in the information that is submitted. 

Stuff that doesn’t follow accepted news style, has no substance, provides meaningful information is discarded…quickly.

There’s too much good stuff out there. 

If you’re interested in getting your organization, products, services covered, here are some basic guidelines:

  • Write the release simply and factually, and make certain that you tell the full story. Then stop!
  • When the story dictates, prepare background and biographical material that gives facts rather than personal "puff."  Post the information/material on the company news website and add hyperlinks directly to the background material. 
  • Photographs should be real, with sharp contrasts, not retouched ad shots.  Some creative publicists have added low res shots embedded in the release with links to the high res shots.  Post the illustrations on the website with links to the release. Make certain that the caption explains the photo and ties into the release.
  • The release should contain the name, email address and telephone number of the person to contact for additional information.  That includes cellphone numbers so the editor/writer can get the information/support when he/she needs it … not when it is convenient for you.
  • Write the release with the specific medium’s reader in mind.  Sales people tailor their information to the interests of their prospects.  Do the same for editors.  Of course, that means you may have to write separate copy for each media category but the results can be dramatic!

 

Research and Development

There’s usually a lot going on in most companies in the industry that is of interest to editors and their audience.  Waiting for someone to tell you to do another new product announcement isn’t doing your job. 

Doing the PR job means you should also work like a good reporter and dig out the information.

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Then, determine what is of value to the company, the editor, the reader.

Think the subject through; examine every angle and the social, entertainment, business interests of your audience.

Then simply write the release or releases to satisfy the needs of the editors/reporters/readers. 

No part of a company’s PR/communications program can do more to support the organization, products, services than good publicity. 

It can be measured in sales, profits, corporate goodwill.

Of course, if the company doesn’t want, doesn’t need this visibility, understanding, coverage; any clerk or newbie can be given the task. 

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