If the sage guru of etiquette and manners worked in PR, I think she would dedicate an entire chapter to the art of the press release. Exacting and straightforward, a release can be a powerful tool to communicate with your audience. Unfortunately, it is also an area primed for faux pas.
At Sabo PR, press releases are a way of life. Rarely a day goes by where my keyboard doesn’t read, “For immediate release” in the right-hand corner of my screen. So it’s no wonder that when most people hear “public relations,” they automatically think “press release.” The two are synonymous, right? Not exactly.
As great as a press release is, it’s not the only way to disseminate information. A press release is one of many tools in a PR professional’s arsenal. Media advisories, a press event, social media campaign or brochure are several alternative ways to spread the word. Before you jump to writing a press release for your next announcement, I’ve outlined a guide to knowing when to use a press release, what it does and who it’s for.
- A press release is a conversation starter. This conversation between you and media operates much like a real-life conversation. If you approach someone to say “hello,” don’t be surprised when you get a “hi” back. If you feel the urge to send out a press release but have no intention of talking to the press, interviewing on camera or promoting your story beyond a formalized letter, then a press release is not for you. A press release is an invitation to media, a flashing neon sign saying, “Look at me! Tell my story!” Before you press send on a press release, make sure your willing to engage with the gatekeepers to your audience.
- A press release has a purpose. There should be a message or a story, not simply a presentation of stale facts or a dumping ground of information. While the who, what, where, when and why are the building blocks of your press release, there should also be a hook and compelling reason to read it, a story seamlessly folded and tucked away into the facts. For example, if your company wants to announce a new hire, talk about what experience they bring to the company and how they’ll advance your mission.
- A press release is for rule followers. In the fast-paced world of journalism and new media, news outlets don’t have time to waste on a poorly written, meandering press release. They will pass on a mistake-riddled release that doesn’t adhere to Associate Press standards and grammar guidelines. While an errant comma may not seem like a game-changer, it can mean the difference between your story in the news and another passed-over press release.
- A press release is not a necessity. Just because your organization is having another gala or company-wide fundraising campaign, it doesn’t mean it warrants a press release. If you’re inclined to fun, untraditional marketing, get creative in a social media marketing campaign or gift box. Don’t let the confines of a press release keep you from exploring whatever maverick-making ways you can dream up to tell your story.
The next time you send a press release and don’t get the results you want, think of Ms. Post, dust off your PR playbook and give Sabo PR a call.