Recognizing Press Releases As News Tools, Not Back-Patters

Press Release PurposeYou know I love to use real-world examples when explaining things. We recently got pushback from a group we’re helping promote an event, and it gave us a chance to explain our approach to press releases.

This incident made me think the group’s question probably is a common question that some people might be hesitant to ask. So we’re addressing it here today.

The issue: the group needed a press release that notified the media of an upcoming event. The event planning involved two organizations- one with an established spokesperson; the other is legitimately a group effort where multiple people speak on behalf of the organization.

The second group was adamant that two people from one of the organizations be quoted. I said no; I would include one quote from a representative of each group.

They pushed back, reminding me that a second member of the organization had been equally instrumental in bringing in sponsors, meeting people, and performing other duties affiliated with the campaign, “and his name needs to be out there.”

I said no. Here’s why:

A press release is meant to notify the public of an event or occasion. The most important things that need to be in the press release are the facts- who, what, when, where, why and how. In this case, the “who” was the two organizations, and not each individual who is involved in the event planning. That list is exhaustive, as is the case with any well-planned event.

It is customary – but not required – to include a quote or two. When two entities are involved, we include a quote from each, whenever possible. However, we work diligently to make sure the quotes actually add something to the content, and aren’t just fluffy garbage that get someone’s name in the release. Reporters don’t care that every person has a voice. They simply want to know why they should write an article about this particular event or topic.

Serious pushback ensued. Was I really saying that if we included two quotes from one organization, the media would reject the release? No.

If they were a paying customer and specifically requested this press release say exactly what they wanted, would there be an issue? Yes.

I tell clients no to press releases all the time. Any public relations professional who truly is trying to help her client would do the same. Any good business person who turns to a PR professional for help should want to be told no at times.

Think about it: I’m not a mechanic, so you’ll never catch me telling a mechanic how to fix my car. If you don’t work in the public relations field and you hire an agency to perform those tasks for you, you want them to work effectively, right?

I use my 20 years of experience as a journalist and a PR strategist to write press releases and pitch stories based on best practices, industry standards and what has consistently generated success for me in the past.

Lots of people send press releases to the media and the information in those releases goes nowhere. Press releases written by my team and me quite often are simply cut and pasted by a reporter or editorial assistant. That means we’re doing something right.

But when it’s a paying client, you ought to do what the client tells you to do, right? Wrong. This is about more than the current client and the current project. PR professionals work for years to cultivate and maintain relationships with media outlets. When you build a good relationship, your emails get opened and acted upon. Reporters quickly learn who sends them accurate, well-written press releases that actually have story potential.

For a PR professional, media relationships almost always last far longer than the client relationship. Our active role in protecting those relationships means you benefit when you turn to us for publicity.

Something else to keep in mind is that a good reporter is going to go deeper than the press release. She’s going to want to talk to people involved in the story. Here’s your opportunity to get the key players involved by being interviewed. The goal is to get media coverage, so it’s far better to wind up being quoted in a published story than potentially never making it past the press release.

Also remember that press releases today can have a variety of uses. While we need it to pitch stories to the media, remember that as a client, the press release belongs to you, too. If you want to beef it up, add more quotes and make it more of a story so you can post it to your website or share it in other ways, go for it.