For many companies, “public relations” is synonymous with “press release”. What these companies often fail to realize, however, is that a press release is not a surefire way to garner press for your company; in fact, in some cases, a press release can actually be detrimental to your media relations efforts.
This isn’t to say, of course, that press releases are never warranted — when utilized correctly, they can be an invaluable tool. So, before these statements send old-school PR advocates into a tailspin, here are a few examples of when your company needs a press release, and a few examples of when a press release isn’t necessary.
You Need a Press Release If…
There is a significant company announcement which requires a platform for multiple details and quotes from company executives: We’ve covered this before, but it is always a good idea to step outside of the situation at hand and ask yourself if your news is actually newsworthy.
The answer is usually only “yes” when there is a significant value-add to a reporter’s readers. It’s great that Bob down the hallway got promoted, but will that change the way the company operates or have any impact on the public’s perception of the company? If Bob is overseeing a new division that will bring dozens of jobs to the local market, then his promotion deserves a press release. If he’s moved to an internal role that is only meaningful to his fellow employees, then a press release isn’t necessary.
You’re releasing a new product or adding a new service: While it’s completely plausible to promote a new product or service sans press release, a release can be an excellent tool for sending important key points about your launch to multiple outlets and reporters at once, and ensuring that they have all the necessary information upfront.
You’re reporting on key findings that are relevant to your industry: Press releases are most effective when they are fact-driven and affect others within your industry or region. The more a press release can circle back to an important trend or highlight exactly why the information presented is important, the higher chances it has of receiving significant pick-up.
For example, conducting a company-issued survey that generates insight into an issue or trend affecting your industry or customer base and publishing the results via a press release is a great way to provide value to reporters and other key influencers. This not only makes you a thought leader; it also makes you a reliable source for future stories.
You DO NOT Need a Press Release If…
You’re trying to get a company feature in the press: If your company is doing something innovative or interesting and you want a reporter to do a feature on it, sending them an 800-word press release detailing why you’re great is not the best route to take. Instead, a simple, straight-forward pitch with a catchy headline is the best way to instigate a conversation on why a feature story makes sense for that particular reporter at that particular time (e.g. it’s summer and you design couture pocket fans to keep customers cool). Just make sure you’re following the cardinal rules of pitching when you do this.
You’re commenting on a current event that is getting media attention: Every so often, a phenomenon like Pokemon Go goes viral and suddenly becomes inescapable. If you are a company that has profited from the game in some way, designed similar interfaces that place you in a position to contribute to the AR/VR rhetoric, etc., there may be an opportunity for you to insert yourself into a conversation that is already happening. This is a publicist’s dream because 1) you can get a lot of easy “wins” with minimal effort and 2) the angle that will “hook” a reporter is laid out for you. In this scenario, an email to a reporter that (briefly) states your credentials, what you can add to their story on the topic and who they can speak with at your company for more insight is more than sufficient and can lead to great press coverage.
You want to invite a targeted group of people to an event: After helping to plan and execute dozens of grand openings, anniversary parties and events for clients, I can, without a doubt, tell you that the way you invite key influencers to your event is just as important as selecting the hors d’oeuvres and ordering party favors. When it comes to media, the last thing you want to do is bombard them with a press release that details why your company is hosting an event. Instead, send a media alert detailing the “where”, “when”, “who” and “why” in an email. If you really want to get creative, there may be an opportunity to create and hand-deliver a media kit that is representative of the event’s theme and has details on the “where”, “when”, “who” and “why” inside. Either way, it’s important to consult with a trained media specialist before you decide on a definite invite strategy.
Press releases are a staple in every PR professional’s life; however, in order to get the most out of your public relations efforts, never stop asking yourself the question, “Do I really need a press release?”