Johannesburg, January 8, 2016 – It’s time to bid farewell to the age of the press release, once upon a time the bread and butter of public relations, today, largely ignored by the target audience – journalists and editors.
The ‘perfect’ series of quotes from management and flowery adjectives expounding your personalised service and incredible variety of activities are no longer going to cut it. Newsflash, five pages about what makes you ‘unique’ and pretty pictures are headed straight for File 13.
You’ve wasted your time. If you have a PR company, you’ve wasted their time… and as for the journalist, you’ve wasted the two seconds it took to press the big Delete button in Outlook.
In the ‘bad’ old days, you could get away with the spray and pray approach – sending a press release out over a wire service; crossing fingers and toes and holding thumbs that someone would pick it up and see its relevance for their audience or that Google would give you an SEO Noddy Badge for your ‘dynamic content’. Sadly, those days are long gone.
Ask any journalist or editor and they’ll tell you they receive hundreds of press releases a day. There is no way they are capable of, or even interested in, going through all five pages of ‘fluffy’ to find out what’s relevant for their audience. Even press releases with clear news value may be getting passed over because of the ‘noise’ permeating their inboxes.
That’s why some companies like Twitter don’t even bother to send out press releases! Long live Twitter… may the press release move on to greener pastures.
A short disclaimer here before my rant continues… not all press releases are equal. Sometimes a press release is a necessary evil to get attention for your brand, more specifically if it has a real news hook or if you’re a public company and need to make a public disclosure.
I really love this statement by Upright Position Community which says the only time journalists read press releases is when they need them. “When a reporter goes into a news room, there isn’t a magical box of press releases that dance around inspiring them for their story of the day. In fact, the only time a reporter proactively reads a press release on its own, without context, is when they know they are already doing a story on that company.”
And by the way, even if they’re not using your press release to write a story, they certainly are to learn more about you. Used correctly, a press release could simply be the starting point in engaging with a journalist for another angle or a totally different story eventually.
So if you’ve been tormenting your PR company or staff demanding press releases with no news hook, no point and no result, or if you simply want to help add value to your customer’s life, here are five steps that will benefit everyone:
- Ditch the press release, unless you have to…
Before you march into your PR department demanding a press release be written about, well… something you think is terribly important and newsworthy to you (but which has little relevance at all for your target market), try to leave your ego at the door and think whether what you have to say is worth a press release at all. Why do you want to issue a press release? Will your target audience care about what you have to say? How will what you have to say add value to their lives? Remember it’s not so much about you… and more about them.
- Identify who you want to target
This is as simple as identifying who your existing and potential customers are. This step is absolutely essential as it will help you determine which media to target, as well as the content to generate. If you understand and appreciate your audience truly, you will unselfishly deliver content that is useful, relevant, informative and engaging for them. Not content that is driven completely by your own agenda.
- Identify the media – print, online and broadcast – that your target customers ‘listen’ to
How wonderful that you’ve developed a media list of over 5 000 media contacts worldwide. I would simply love to know how you’re keeping that priceless gem updated, bearing in mind the Millennials’ penchant for switching companies every two years. My suggestion? Identify no more than 20 media ‘partners’ with whom you would like to develop a relationship based on their audience, values and coverage and focus on those. Or of course lull yourself into a sense of false security, throw in three superfluous management quotes to pad your release and bulk-mail 5 000 people, getting a 2% open rate and no coverage. The choice is yours.
- Develop a relationship with that media by helping them and adding value
How can you help the journalist or editor with their day-to-day objectives? Can you provide them with interesting trends? Are your ears glued to the ground? Do you have access to information nobody else does that would be relevant to their audience? Really get to know your media partners, how they operate and the kind of content they need to produce so that, when you give them information, you’re not wasting their time, and you’re adding value.
- Be proactive and give them content that is exclusive, meaningful, relevant and timeous
This may be way more time consuming than the traditional spray and pray approach, but definitely more successful. By truly understanding the journalist or editor’s needs and, more importantly, that of their audience, you can tailor unique content that you have created or sourced that supports your brand but also supports their content generation efforts. You’ll need to be vigilant, plugged in and proactive, but pitching the right content at the right time will hit the sweet spot your generic five-page press release never will. Taking this a step further, position yourself as an expert in a particular area and ALWAYS be available for comment. If you’re reliable and authoritative, you will be called upon to comment often.
Our role should be to inform and share with journalists and editors the industry news, the trends and anything that will be valuable to their audience. And that need not be through issuing a generic, mass-distributed press release. In fact, it should almost never be.
Start sharpening your pencils…