“How do we get a journalists to pick up our press release?”
It’s a question that COMMS.BAR specialists get asked regularly. They’re an expensive way to find out whether you can get the media interested in an announcement and the truth is that most releases are distributed to mail boxes set up for the purpose of collecting release so as not to clog journalists’ day-to-day email.
Even if a release finds its way in to the right inbox, the chances of getting it picked up are slim. Journalists scan releases rather than reading them looking for key information. Most press releases are jingoistic self-congratulatory documents, filled with exaggeration, hyperbole and bold promises. They’ve been drafted and re-drafted by public relations executives in an attempt to tell the stories their customers want to tell. And that’s the problem.
How to write better press releases
Most releases don’t tell the story that a journalist or Editor wants to tell. They don’t provide journalists with the information they need to write a story. Most releases don’t tell a story their customers – readers/viewers/listeners – want to be told.
Most PR company customers don’t know any other way to write releases – and most agencies don’t know any better. The longer it takes to draft a release, the more billable hours. The more billable hours the more money an agency can charge.
The result is that the majority of releases take way too long to write and the redrafts often reduce the chances of a journalist writing something based on it. Of the releases that are seen by journalists the resulting coverage rarely delivers any commercial benefit. At least not for agency customers.
A broken process
In order to write better press releases you need to change the process. The typical release starts with a briefing session on what the customer believes the story is. This is followed by a first draft. Customer feedback is next, followed by a series of re-drafts. Once a release has been signed off the agency distributes it to a mailing list of tens or, in most cases, hundreds. Then everybody waits. The agency often follows up distribution with media calls – more billable hours – to check whether a journalists has seen the release. It drives most journalists crazy.
A new process
What if media calls were made before a sentence had been written? It would allow interest and angles to be discussed upfront. Releases could be written and tailored to individual outlets; based on angles agreed with Editors and beat reporters. Releases could be written to an outlet’s brief and containing the required information, specific angle and relevant sources – increasing the chances of achieving the commercially-valuable media coverage, rather than publication.
We’re calling them Lean Releases. If you want to write better press releases email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.