Best practices for press releases? No to newswires!
Not so long ago, I worked for a large multinational with a one-person Public Relations team (me!) Given that we needed to achieve global coverage in multiple languages, I had the support of a well-known and well regarded international PR agency. Grab a coffee and prepare for a rant.
Getting a press release ready to go out was a mission: I’d brief the agency, they would draft the press release, I’d edit it, they’d send another draft, I’d edit it again, and then it would go through an arduous approvals process involving the stakeholders, the legal team and senior management, each with their own thoughts marked in the tracked changes.
After weeks and in some cases months, the go-ahead would be given to release the news. The agency, a global leader in their industry, was responsible for distributing the news to the media, and their approach was to simply fire it up on the newswire and see what happened.
Newswires: Return on Investment
A global press release with a photograph cost up to €5,000. Bear in mind, we were already paying this company a hefty retainer for their services, and given that we aimed for one press release per month, this lazy approach added in the region of €60,000 to the annual PR bill. Sure, they would call the trade magazines (who always printed our news in any case), but we wanted coverage in national news outlets, and all they could give us was excuses. Best practice would have been to build relationships with journalists in our industry, but that would have been time-intensive and altogether too effort-y.
What were the results, you may ask? Perhaps it was a worthy investment, reaping an enviable ROI? The Account Manager would proudly present a coverage book the following week showing that the story had been picked up by the trades and published on hundreds of websites worldwide. The problem? The vast majority of the coverage was to be found in regions where my company’s product isn’t sold. Obscure, regional and small-town newspapers with no relevance to my company published the release.
The coverage we were getting from newswires added no value to our business – the lovely numbers my ever-cheerful Account Manager was so delighted to present me with were no more than vanity metrics.
Here’s the truth about national media outlets: If your announcement is relevant they will cover it, and it is not they won’t. The PR agency’s role is to make it relevant.
It’s incredibly rare for the scatter-gun approach of throwing a press release up on a news wire to result in coverage of any real value. Besides which, if a company wants to use a newswire, there is absolutely no need to involve a PR company – it’s a very simple process anyone could handle in-house.
What is the PR agency’s role?
Companies pay PR agencies to fill gaps in their own teams. The role of a top PR practitioner in this scenario is as follows:
- It’s their job to build strong relationships with journalists, so they don’t have to cold call
- It’s their job to find the angle or nugget of information in your product release or company announcement that will be of interest to those journalists
- It’s their job to use these contacts and abilities to deliver coverage that is of genuine value to their clients
Sorry to be crude, but putting a press release on a newswire and crossing your fingers is simply a case of “throwing enough shit and see what sticks.” It’s not good enough. It’s a sham.
So – let’s make a pledge – no to newswires! Commit to achieving real coverage, in publications your client’s audiences actually read. Yes, it will take longer and you will need to work harder – but the results will be so much better.
Do you agree? Or do you still think newswires are worthwhile?
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