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Public Relations Basics: There Is No Magic Press Release Bullet

The “magic bullet” theory of public relations — that one press release is all you need to grab the attention of journalists — is easily debunked. A single press release will rarely, if ever, do the trick. To quote a journalist friend, “familiarity breeds credibility.” Most journalists cover more than one company. In one two year stretch, I wrote about more than 1,000 companies. A good friend of mine who covers the internet sector once wrote about 500 companies in 18 months. I asked him how a new or unfamiliar company grabs his attention.

“If the news is big, it always grabs my attention,” he told me. Simple enough. But not every company has “big” enough news to grab a journalist’s attention. How else can these companies get your attention? “The more press releases, the more likely I am to write about them,” he replied.

I was a bit dumbfounded to be honest. Journalists hate press releases, don’t we? I decided to do a little research. A non-scientific study of a dozen small internet and tech companies revealed a simple cause-and-effect: the more press releases, the more press. I always felt that sending one press releases after another was like blindly throwing money at problem. But to effectively grab the attention of many media outlets, you need multiple strategies; apparently you can add “multiple press releases” to that list.

A company the size of Oracle puts out hundreds of press releases each year, sometimes five or 10 in a single day. Not every company has Oracle’s budget, but every company has something newsworthy to report during the course of the year. With that said, here’s a publicity-generating idea business of all sizes can try: quarterly press releases.

At the end of every quarter, publicly-held companies must inform the public of their financial status. They do this through Securities and Exchange Commission filings and a press release announcing the availability of such a filing. The press release normally includes some company spin, of course. A privately-held company is under no obligation to release details of its financial performance, but that doesn’t mean it can’t beat its own chest.

Putting out a press release at the end of each quarter touting impressive sales, expansions, new hires, new products, and other routine business news is a good idea. These regular press releases will lay that familiar foundation of credibility in the eyes of journalists.

“If a private company keeps me up-to-date on what their business is doing, I’m more likely to write about them,” one journalist told me. “Public companies press release everything because they need to keep shareholders informed. Private companies should do the same thing. They’re battling larger companies for space (i.e., ink and airtime) and the more their name appears in my inbox, the better.”

So how do we shape a quarterly press release? Think of it as a newsletter to the public and ask yourself some questions: What important events have occurred over the past three months? How has the company succeeded? What products or services have been big winners? Have you revenues doubled? Have you expanded to new locations or hired 50 new employees?

Publicizing this information in a press release is essential to keeping your company in the public’s eye. A single press release announcing a deal is unlikely to grab attention. The more information flowing from your direction, the more likely good publicity will result. Don’t go looking for that “magic bullet.”

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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