Why your PR strategy must go beyond the press release

Reporters are bombarded with the same old approach to promoting your client’s ‘news,’ yet the practice persists. To improve your odds for coverage, consider its value to a journalist’s audience.

It’s not your fault.

You were taught how to run a business, not how to share company news with media outlets. You probably copy what you’ve seen others do.

That’s OK, but it’s probably not doing anything for you. If your PR firm or in-house communications crew is only distributing press releases, they’re not doing meaningful PR work.

Press releases for B2B companies can serve a purpose—but even then the impact is extremely low. Who trusts a company that says it’s fantastic? Plus, press releases are typically distributed to appease somebody—an executive, marketer, shareholders—someone who wants to see their achievement up in lights.

Before you even think about writing a press release, ask yourself what’s in it for the reader.

Let’s say your company made something great. What did it solve for a customer? What are the data points or customer insights? Your prospects want to hear from your customers, not from you. If you don’t have results, wait until you do.

Email pitches (short notes of highlights or bullet points that point to a possible story) to journalists are likely to perform better than a press release.

Depending on the industry, when announcing real news such as an executive hire or promotion, a press release can be a wise approach and could reach a broad network. There may be some benefits, but most press releases are a waste of time.

Reporters don’t read them

With almost zero time available and incredible pressure to produce a range of content, reporters want to know quickly what’s relevant for their audience. You must tailor your email pitch to every recipient and tie it to a larger trend or timely event to grab attention.

One journalist I know says she gets about 25 per day and opens probably two. You’ve got about 30 seconds to catch a reporter’s interest. Which is more likely to win the day in half a minute or less: an email with bullets or a press release that says you’re just swell?

Where your news release is “published” is a whole other story.

Some self-described PR experts might suggest, advise or acquiesce to your insistence on distributing your press release via a wire service for what purportedly is the broadest possible reach. You’ll get a timely distribution service report soon after your press release has gone out.

That report will show big numbers (total potential audience) and countless news stations listed. You’ll think, “All these media outlets ran our release and found it valuable enough to present it to their audience. We did great!”

That’s not what’s happened.

Those media outlets are fed your press release, which is then “published” on their site. The hard truth is your release isn’t searchable on 99 percent of those sites natively. If you logged onto their homepage and searched for your “article,” you probably wouldn’t find it.

Your SEO barely improved, because search engines don’t index them and those news outlets aren’t writing original stories about your “news.” What’s more, your press release will disappear within minutes or hours to make room for the next release.

Those audience numbers are bogus.

Think twice

The next time you think you need a press release, ask yourself whether the story would have more credibility for consumers if it were written by a journalist or told via a third party (partner or customer).

Sometimes it is easier to put out a press release and, if you don’t have a PR firm or in-house communications pro, to distribute it through a wire service. After all, sometimes your CEO just wants to see his or her name and quote in writing somewhere, anywhere.

Still, try to educate them. If you can, you might have a chance to see your business’ story appear in The Wall Street Journal, your largest regional newspaper, a relevant trade pub or a must-read blog by approaching it according to its news value.

John Forberger runs Forberger Communications, a B2B public relations firm. A version of this post originally appeared on his Medium blog.

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