For my entire career, I’ve dealt with a common misconception as it relates to public relations. Far too often companies believe that public relations — and media relations in particular — is synonymous with creating and sending press releases.
There’s this perception that if a company has news, one simply writes a press release, sends it to the media and it magically appears in the papers the next day.
Perhaps PR pros make it look that simple, but there is far more to the process
— especially if you want your company to successfully appear in the press.
Yes, there is a whole lot more to public relations than publicity. But for the sake of this post, we’re just going to focus on the media relations and securing press coverage for your company.
When Press Releases Aren’t Effective
Simply writing and mass distributing press releases is a bit like the idea of “build it and they will come.” It sounds like an attractive theory, but sadly, it’s one that rarely works.
Why isn’t this effective? There are a variety of reasons:
- Your release isn’t news. Just because you think your company has news, doesn’t mean that reporters will agree. Creating a news release does not automatically mean the content is newsworthy.
- It’s not targeted. When you mass distribute a news release or send it over the wire, you’re essentially throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping something sticks. Reporters hate getting releases that have nothing to do with their beat. If it’s not relevant, they won’t cover it.
- They don’t know you. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard this a thousand times — if reporters don’t know who you are, they are less likely to pay attention to your releases. In a world with shrinking newsrooms and overflowing inboxes, reporters are far more likely to respond if they know who you are.
Effective PR: Going Beyond the Press Release
I’m not suggesting that a well-written press release isn’t valuable. However, a press release alone rarely nets the coverage companies crave.
It takes research and relationships. And both of those things take time.
Let me give you an example.
As we’ve begun an ongoing media relations effort for a client, we identified a key reporter at a daily publication that we wanted to work with.
I reached out an introduced myself to the reporter and asked about one of his regular profile features. Yes, I sent the reporter a release. But, I did it in the context of this reporter’s particular ongoing column to see if our client was a good fit for that section.
It turns out it was.
As we were working through the details of that profile piece, I also asked the reporter what he was working on and if I could help in any way. He shared what his next story was about and it turns out we had a source who was a great fit.
The result? Our client got two great press placements — one team member quoted as an expert source and an upcoming profile piece about another team member.
None of those things would have happened if we had simply included the reporter in a mass distribution of our release.
Ingredients for Successful Media Relations
Sadly, many companies think that a media relations effort begins and ends with a press release. But, that’s only a small piece of the equation. And, sometimes, you don’t even need a press release at all.
Here’s what you need for media relations done right:
- Key Message. What is the overarching message you are trying to communicate as a company? What story are you trying to tell? This should come from your mission and vision and should be a key component of your marketing and PR strategy. Developing consistent messaging will help your entire effort stay on track and be more effective.
- Targeted publications and reporters. What are you trying to accomplish with media relations? In other words, which audience are you trying to reach? Once you determine that, you can identify high-value publications and key reporters to target that will get your company’s story in front of the right people.
- Research. What do those targeted reporters and publications write about? Having a keen understanding of what each publication, beat or reporter covers will help you develop a story idea and pitch that won’t get trashed.
- Strong relationships. Once you’ve identified the reporters you want to connect with, reach out to them and get to know them. Read their work and comment on their stories. Connect with reporters on social media channels. Get to know them and ask how you can help. All of this will help you build a
- Compelling story. Once you’ve developed your messaging and research, it’s time to identify and build your story. Do you have a compelling story, interesting angle or valuable resource to offer? Look for stories that are unique and timely.
- Solid pitch. By now, you should know what reporters are looking for and what stories or angles you have to offer. This makes it much easier to develop a pitch that will appeal to the reporter. And, if you’ve taken the time to build a relationship, reporters will be more responsive about whether your pitch is a fit or not.
Press releases are still valuable and can help your company get media coverage. But, it’s important to remember how the fit into the overall media relations effort.
Understanding how to pitch reporters the right way will mean the difference between your story appearing in the paper and ending up in the trashcan.
How do you use press releases at your company? What has worked best for you?