I almost always write a press release. Why, in this day and age of email, blogs, and the insouciant charm of Twitter, do I bother? “Is it,” you may ask, “worth it?”
Yes. The press release is your mothership document. Whether you’re sharing tips about locksmith services or DIY patio building; you need to get the information down in one location. It contains the info that the media is interested in most: Who, What, Why, When, and Where. If it’s written well and has a catchy lede yet doesn’t wear the reader out with minutiae or boilerplate, it can serve you well. From this mothership sails the speedboats: SEO messages, Twitter Tweets, media advisories, or PSA copy. It’s also handy to send as deeper background for those with peaked interest.
Notice I said it can serve you well and that I always write a press release; that doesn’t mean I always send it. It may end up posted on the client’s website or in a requested e-press kit or nowhere at all but my laptop. I write it not because I’m a little old school, but because it grounds me in the facts and lets me play with what makes the story interesting (or warns me when it’s not). My old newspaper editor “Spidey Sense” usually tells me when it’s not something I should send–that despite my best efforts it will waste a reporter’s, editor’s or blogger’s time. (And yes, bloggers generally don’t want press releases anyway.)
Here’s the deal: you only have so many shots with the news media. Send them a press release on any and everything your client does and you’ll find yourself ignored quite a bit or even worse: relegated to the spam folder.
Do not waste a reporter’s or editor’s or blogger’s time is one of the cardinal rules of public relations. If your client insists, then perhaps you haven’t done enough on the front end to manage expectations. Clients need to understand that in order for you to be effective, you can’t shoot your bow simply because you have the arrows. You have to have something with a reasonable chance of hitting the target.
There are plenty of people who will tell you the press release is dead. To a large degree, they are correct. But I still believe a targeted, smart piece serves a purpose when you use it correctly and pay attention to the needs of the media. A savvy practitioner knows his media list and doesn’t send a lengthy press release to a blogger who regularly scorns this approach or the TV news assignment editor who barely has time to go to the bathroom let alone read your two-pager on the new widget from BigCorp Industries.
Remember, PR pros: you know your client, media market, and media counterparts better than anyone else (or you should, lest you wish to go out of business quickly). The press release as a mothership document is useful. Just make sure you don’t sink the whole enterprise by using it incorrectly.