news release

There is an ongoing discussion out there about whether or not the press release is dead. (Google: “is the press release dead?” – you’ll see.) And on that topic, in my humble opinion, the title “press release” is dead. It should now be called a “news release” or a “media release” to reflect the shift in journalism from print publications to broadcast and digital media. According to Wikipedia, the press release was first used in 1906 after a train wreck. It was distributed to the press, which back then was printed.

We believe the news release still has value, but you have to clearly define what the objective of your announcement is in order to decide if a news release is the right option for your outreach. Sometimes a targeted pitch is better. However, for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, a news release can be a good tool. It can help you directly connect to your target audience. There are lots of free or reasonably low-cost websites out there where you can upload your news release and help your target audience find you.

There is also, of course, the digital news release (also called the social media news release) that includes images, video, links and other resources. We’re big fans of this because we believe that there is an opportunity for organizations to authentically tell their story through images, video and well-written content. The digital news release may be a media relations tool, but it is also brand journalism.

Whatever format you choose – your news release needs to be informative and newsworthy. Those lame quotes should be pulled (although full disclosure, we distribute some releases with them because the client insists), and anything that isn’t newsworthy or doesn’t answer who, what, when, where, why and how doesn’t belong. Your news release needs to provide value; it needs to meet the criteria of being newsworthy. It needs to tell the journalist something that will be of interest, in some way, to their audience. We put our clients’ news releases through the “who cares” test – if no one outside of their workplace or immediate family is going to be excited about the information in the release, we need to either identify more interesting and timely information or talk to our client and see if this information isn’t better suited for a newsletter or other internal communication piece.

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We recently had a call from someone who wanted to hire us to “distribute a release and build media relationships” for them. Those requests immediately gave me concerns and I was pretty certain that we wouldn’t be a good fit for this particular project. However, we never want to shut someone down before understanding what they need. If we’re not a good fit, we will do our best to help them find someone who is.

I questioned this person a bit further. Even though AHA doesn’t distribute releases that aren’t written by us, I asked to see the release so I could understand what this person wanted to promote. It was five pages long, filled with corporate speak and industry jargon. And, as far as I could see, there was no news value. When I explained the fact that we aren’t a news release distribution service and identified the challenges in the release, this person then asked if we could just develop a media database for them of all the journalists we know and they would distribute it. He went on to explain that he needed to create some media relationships and wanted to do that as quickly as possible. I did my best to explain how it doesn’t work that way, but I am not sure that he understood what I was trying to tell him.

At our PR agency, media, blogger and social media relationships are an important component of what we do. We spend a great deal of time and effort on this. We have established strong, positive relationships in a wide range of areas including travel/hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage, education, non-profit and government to name a few. As we build our relationships with journalists, bloggers and influencers, we build our clients relationships with them as well. We set up information meetings, we help our clients provide relevant information (which is not always about them), we provide access to interviews with senior people at client organizations, and we make sure there are images, information, facts and stats ready and available to their deadlines. We get our clients to participate in social media and to authentically connect with their communities.

We follow journalists on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn and even on Facebook (sometimes – but that’s a different blog post). We read their articles every day, we watch their newscasts, we listen to the radio shows and we spend a lot of time online to see what is going on. We engage on social media sites with influencers (never disguising who we are, by the way). It takes time and effort. We work at it. And we get results for our clients.

You can’t just casually hand over relationships like those and expect that it would work that way. And the fact is, even if you could, we wouldn’t.

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