This is part one in a three part series that analyzes press releases from a media relations perspective.
What Is A Press Release?
Any communication professional will tell you that managing messages effectively is difficult. There are so many “voices” and “authorities” that may be contrary to your, or your client’s, message that it becomes a challenge determining the best course of action. The intent of this review is to help you better understand the press release as a tool in your tool belt.
Atilus is the leader in e-Communication techniques, and we will be rolling out additional, more traditional, marketing products for our clients. Included in what we provide each of our clients is media management and press releases.
First things first: “what is a press-release”? Before we get started picking a media press release apart, it’s important to have a good working definition. So, we visit our (open-source) associates at Wikipedia to get a working definition of what is a press release actually is. Their community definition of a press release is:
A press release, news release, media release, press statement or video release is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy. Typically, they are mailed, faxed, or e-mailed to assignment editors at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations, and/or television networks.
Press releases are a tool that anyone can use to reach their audiences. However, simple mistakes result in your material not being picked up for publication. I was honored to have Judith Zimomra, City Manager for Sanibel, Florida as a guest speaker for my Community Relations course at Edison State College. She made an extremely valuable point when she said that a message is not received when it is sent; it is received when it is read and understood. This is a simple, but extremely valuable point in media management.
A Blast of Fresh Air!
Just because you “blast” media with good news, don’t think that you will be picked up. Communication industry professionals have a wide variety of tactics to employ to get a news media outlet to print or air a good story. However, even they are susceptible to the priorities and politics common in every business, especially one in which advertising revenue and diverse stakeholders rule the day.
Therefore, responding to the question “What is a Press Release?” is not simply cut and dry. Sending mass emails to the media may be fruitless for weeks, months, and years. You have to be mindful of what’s important to the different media outlets, you have to be patient, and you have to keep trying to build a reputation for providing valuable news-leads. From strictly a financial point of view, it makes good sense for the media to encourage as many good leads as possible. It cuts down on their overhead and the need for beat reporters to “dig” for their stories.
It’s about communicating with media outlets so that your message is read, understood, and carried. That takes time. It’s important to operate with integrity and always provide good information – even when you’re not being printed or aired.
A Release to the Press
When you hit “send” and release your message to the press, your net is cast. You may find yourself waiting for phone calls and returned emails that never come. It may be that you NEVER get picked up by a news outlet. What can you do?
There are four things to consider:
- Make sure that what you have sent is valuable to the member of the media to whom you sent it. You have no idea how many “good ideas” get sent to the press each day (nor does anyone externally, for that matter). Therefore, you can’t assume that the reason your story didn’t get picked up is because they didn’t like it (or have any kind of bias against you personally). Perhaps it didn’t fit their general outlook for the day, week, month, or in some cases, year(s).
- Make sure what you release to the press is well-edited. Read, edit and review your press release at least 10 times before you send it. Then, take a break, and read it two more times. Grammar, spelling, and content all play a role in whether something is “newsworthy”. However, misspelling something is a fast way to ruin your credibility as a source.
- Prepare to be told what you’re sending to press is advertising, not news. Many small, medium and large businesses forget that media, especially print where their subscriptions have plummeted due to online bloggers in recent years, make money on selling advertising space. The best way to ensure that you will be picked up is to only send releases to press outlets that are about good news in general, not good news in terms of your bottom line or business success.
- Foster two-way communication and open dialogue. Get to know who writes what in which niche before you release anything to press agents. These folks are people, too. If you simply blast and reblast them with information, you will quickly find yourself being sent to their spam folder. Make sure you foster goodwill and an open, honest relationship with the news; be prepared for those who will resent you for this, and those who are only looking to come after stories that “bleed”.
Stay tuned for the second installment in the How to Send a Press Release.