Why and how you should be sending press releases

The spray-and-pray approach is pretty much a waste of time—and it certainly doesn’t constitute a full strategy. Here’s guidance on the proper way to compose and use this much-maligned tool.

Are press releases dead?

That depends on how you use them.

A recent Twitter conversation confirmed as much and offered important insight into how PR and communications pros can give journalists what they need.

A Muck Rack survey of 500 journalists found that just 3 percent of U.S.-based journalists rely heavily on press releases, and 53 percent said they don’t rely on press releases at all. PR Daily wrote up the results, with the headline asserting, “Journalists are ditching the press release.”

Journalist Michelle Rafter, who has written for The Wall Street Journal, NBCNews.com and MSN Money, added some insights from her own experience:

Rafter admits that she’s among the journalists who are unlikely to write a story based on a press release, but she points out what press releases are still good at doing: introducing journalists to potential sources.

As I tweeted in response, press releases are tactic and a resource.

Forgetting that is a quick way to frustrate a journalist who’s trying to get in touch.

As Michelle put it:

As you think about your own campaigns, keep these guidelines in mind:

1. Press releases alone are not a strategy. They’re just another tool in your toolbox. They’re an opportunity to get your story down, vet your messaging and create a go-to background document. Although some outlets will reprint press releases and some journalists will write articles based on them, you’re more likely to get coverage with a timely, relevant, targeted email to the right reporter.

2. Adding contact info makes reporters’ job easier. Neglecting to offer a contact puts a big roadblock in the way of any journalist who wants to talk to you. Make it as simple as possible for reporters to get in touch. Create a special phone number or email if you must, and check it regularly.

3. Links can help build a relationship. Linking to more resources on your website—including visuals, logos, and other assets for easy downloading—should be a no-brainer. Linking to social media accounts and blogs helps reporters follow the company or executives for future coverage and answers, Rafter says.

4. Keep an eye on calendars. Make sure your experts are available to talk to reporters. Rafter has followed up on releases the day they went out only to be told the subject matter expert is out of the office or unavailable. Vacations happen. Keep a close eye on schedules around launch time. For Rafter, even if she agreed to an embargo, she’s not writing based on a release—she’s doing interviews.

Press releases have never been a full strategy. Like a blog, media contacts, influencers, events and more, press releases are just one piece of a larger approach that can earn you credibility, attention and ultimately new customers.

Mike Lizun is Gregory FCA’s senior vice president of public relations. A version of this post first appeared on The NewsHackers.


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