PR Fuel: PR News, Views, & Stews

The PR Fuel Mailbag: Press Releases as Email Attachments, Expert Quotes, and Loudmouth CEOs

Q: I need to send out a press release that includes graphics. But many public relations pros say not to send out press releases as an attachment. What should I do?

A: I’m going to stick with my gut and suggest that you don’t send out the release as an attachment. The reasoning here is simple: 1.) Emails with attachments are much less likely to be opened by journalists; 2.) Emails with attachments are much more likely to be blocked by spam filters; and 3.) Freelance journalists without broadband, journalists on the road, or journalists who use mobile devices to read email won’t appreciate the attachment. In lieu of sending the release as an attachment, include a basic text version of the press release with links to the full graphic release on a web site.

There are some exceptions, however. It’s OK to send out attachments to journalists with whom you have a relationship; if the press release contains such a huge amount of information; if the press release is so graphically intense that the only format suitable is something other than plain text. If the image involved was a pie chart, simply put the information from the chart in a text format.

Looking through my archive of press releases, I noticed that AT&T sends out a fair amount of information to journalists and analysts in the form of attachments, usually large documents such as financial statements. I did notice a decent amount of press releases the company sent out as attachments, which were simple text documents. Still, it’s always best to find an alternative to press releases as attachments, even as broadband penetration grows, and arguably most journalists are now working on broadband connections.

Q: I’ve seen you quoted in a number of stories as an “expert,” and I was wondering how do you do position yourself as an expert to be quoted?

A: Public relations contacts who pitch clients or colleagues as “experts” who comment on timely news should make the experts available at all times. Several years ago, when Verizon announced an offer to buy MCI, the news was reported on the Wall Street Journal’s web site early on a Monday morning. I sent an email blast to reporters at 3:15 A.M. with some analysis and quotes. The Associated Press pulled one of my quotes. By the time the stock market closed, I had done phone interviews with CBS News Radio, MarketWatch Radio and BBC Radio, all because I was the first one out the door with some analysis and words of wisdom.

As the story expanded, a reporter contacted me and asked me if I could forward some comments via email so he’d have them ready to go the next day. I was more than happy to take an hour to analyze the news, formulate some thoughts, and put them down in an email. I was guaranteed a public relations “hit,” and all because the reporter knew that I would accommodate him on a weekend.

In a business like mine, expert-related public relations is basically the only type of PR we can expect. As such, I need to be prepared 24/7 to comment on news, and to make myself available to the media. I let every journalist and producer know that they can call me whenever they want. By simply making myself available, I was able to garner as much publicity for my company’s brand via this story as much larger analyst firms with deeper pockets and full-time public relations staffs. It doesn’t hurt to come up with exciting, accurate, and understandable sound bites, either.

Q: The CEO of my company has been fuming lately because we’ve received a lot of bad publicity–some deserved, some not. [The CEO] hasn’t helped matters in his own dealings with the media. We’ve got most of the bad publicity contained, but the CEO keeps us in the news by not keeping his mouth shut. Is there anything we can do to convince him to shut up?

A: It takes a special breed of person to run a company, but CEOs can be just as thick-headed and irrational as your average teenager. Sometimes worse.

Obviously you have to worry about your job when deciding to (politely) tell the CEO to shut up. One simple way to point out the problem, however, is to gather your positive — then your negative — press clippings together and see if there is a pattern. f the CEO is causing the negative publicity, you need to tell him that he’s hurting the company’s image. Then either get him some media training or keep him far removed from the public relations process. This is difficult at smaller companies, but when the CEO exhibits a contrary public image, he’s dragging down his company.

I’ve noticed an uptick in CEO’s mouthing off to journalists via email. In more than a few cases, these loose-lipped email correspondences have ended up in print. It’s important for executives to understand that unless they have an agreement with a journalist to correspond off-the-record, everything they write is going to be considered fodder for a column or a story.

Moreover, I think it’s highly inappropriate for a CEO to circumvent the public relations process by speaking directly with the media in an unprofessional manner. For example, I received a stunningly unprofessional email from a CEO recently and wondered what his public relations department would think if I sent it to a couple of journalist friends, pointing out all the factual errors in the email. If your CEO is a loudmouth, keep them on a tight public relations leash. Let them know that they’re not making your job any easier by acting unprofessionally.

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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