No one wants to be the person known for “crying wolf.” Yet that’s precisely the reputation many public relations consultants develop after sending out countless press releases with little newsworthy content. These public relations spammers risk losing credibility with editors and reporters. When they finally do have an earth shattering press release, it may end up filling a waste paper basket rather than newspaper column inches. So when is your press release really newsworthy? Here’s are a few simple steps to ensure you’re getting as much good publicity as possible out of your press release.
Perhaps the simplest method to determine newsworthiness is to ask your colleagues whether your press release really matters to people outside of your organization. That’s often a judgment call, but it’s important to put things in perspective. Building a new washroom at your company headquarters isn’t really all that important to the outside world. Building a new manufacturing plant that will result in a thousand new jobs is definitely worth a press release.
Of course, there is a vast middle ground between those two press releases. The key is to extricate yourself from the hype and hyperbole that typically comes from within a company. One of the simplest ways of honing your judgment is to read newspapers, trade publications, and related magazines on a daily basis, with an eye on what they consider news. An objective instinct for newsworthy stories will develop over time.
One problem is that newsworthiness is often in the eye of the beholder. Something that is news to a food section editor is, in all likelihood, totally useless to a technology section editor. Use this to your advantage. Target your press release to the appropriate editor of a publication. Make sure that a press release goes out only to those who will consider it newsworthy.
It’s also important to keep in mind that news has to be, well, new. Something that happened a year ago is not news. Even a month has a way of turning hot news into an item for the archives. Don’t dredge up dated developments and hope to get coverage from them. Send a press release when something is actually happening.
Conversely, make sure you’re not looking too far ahead. If your organization is planning a new product, wait until you’ve got details and a firm release date before going ahead with a press release. That way everyone is saved from embarrassment if things don’t go quite as planned.
Sometimes it’s possible to have a good news angle, and to blow it by focusing on what’s important inside your organization, as opposed to what’s important to the rest of the world. If you have news, put it in the lead of your press release. Don’t bury news under a pile of blatant advertising or fluff — it will probably never reach the printed page. In fact, if it’s really important news, make your press release as succinct as possible.
In the end, the best advice is to think like an editor or a reporter. Be honest — if you were in their shoes, would you be interested in the press release you’re about to send? If the answer is yes, send it. If you’ve got doubts, rewrite it. If the answer is no, crumple it up and toss it where it belongs — in the recycling box.
This article, written by Mark Laing, originally appeared in PR Fuel (https://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: https://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.
Most press releases are “Feather Copy”– that is just to tickle the boss. They are written to get the product name or the client’s name in the first paragraph. I was in P.R. and on newspapers for more than half a century. At one time when with an agency in New York city I tried to get my boss to let me put out only newsworthy items and even more important, to write them as a news item. To prove my point I went to a NYC newspaper where I had worked and sat at a friend’s desk until one of the three mail deliveries of the day came in. He counted off to me 82 envelopes that he didn’t bother to open because previous ones had only “feather copy” and he didn’t have time to spend on useless items. I took these back to my boss. His comment? Keep grinding them out we get paid for every one we produce.