While some people might insist that press releases are a thing of the past, not everything from the legacy print era has lost its value. Yes, the lowly press release gets a bad wrap these days, but it’s still a very useful tool for today’s trade press.
So what does this non-PR guy know about press releases? I’ve looked at thousands of them over the course of my journalist and analyst careers, and that’s not hyperbole. My best friend while reading them has always been the delete button, which has consistently gotten a vigorous workout. I also remember a time when press releases came snail mail. I’d let them pile up and then read them at one sitting with the garbage can between my knees. Maybe once a month I’d find a definitive “yes” story. Several were “maybes.” But the garbage can always filled up quickly.
Here are a few things that factored into my decisions:
- Who is your target audience? Hint: It’s not always reporters. Some press releases are clearly written as “executive massage.” They go on at length about how wonderful the company and its leadership might be, but they say very little about the actual news at hand. Reporters always assume that people like the companies they work for. Maybe that’s true; maybe not. But this material, all by itself, won’t get you any placements, even though it might make your executives feel good.
- Don’t expect reporters to read it. Build it to “scan.” If a disinterested third party can’t grasp the message in ten seconds, the delete key will be pressed two seconds later.
- Be careful with how you define your market. I realize that companies try to define their market in ways that make them unique, but if your company positions itself as the “industry-leading source of enterprise gadgetry,” that tells the reporter nothing. They can, of course, go to your website and try to figure it out, but, you know, that delete button is winking at them from the right side of the keyboard.
- Write the release to support the headline. If, for example, you’re pitching a new channel program but 90% of the release is about the product being sold, then reporters know that even your marketing team doesn’t see anything worthy about your new channel program.
- Focus on points that differentiate you. “We value our partners and want them to be profitable.” Does this differentiate you? Here’s a clue: Have you ever heard a company say, “We don’t care about our partners, and if they make a dime, then we left money on the table?” Me neither. Instead, focus on HOW you’re helping them. That information is more likely to resonate with the reporter.
- Don’t tell me how to feel about your roll-out. Make a case for WHY I should feel that way. Take the reporter down the path of why your announcement is great. Build your case.
Reporters are busy people – especially these days. But by looking at your announcement from the context of the media, your likelihood of success will increase.