In those corny movie musicals of times gone by, a group of kids — almost always headed by Judy Garland — in need of funds for some adventure or other would enthusiastically brainstorm: “Let’s put on a show!”
From there, the barn magically became a stage, a full orchestra supplied accompaniment and the resulting extravaganza yielded just enough box-office nickels to net a profit.
Funny enough, there are corporate leaders who adopt the same tactic in their media relations.
It’s not “Let’s put on a show!”
Instead, it’s “Let’s send out a press release.”
A press release, like a children’s variety show, can be an effective way of achieving its end, yielding sales or new business rather than audience applause.
Locals access news all the time. The call for content is now 24x7x365. And in the vein of supply and demand, news venues rely on a steady stream of information coming in, so they can turn around and push it out.
Logically, corporate communications departments think: They’ve got to be publishing somebody’s press releases. We’ve seen competitors’ news out there. Doesn’t that predispose journalists and editors to using ours?
The takeaway, then, becomes something of a rude awakening: A press release may not always be your most strategic corporate communications move.
In fact, It may be your worst tactical move ever.
A misfire of a press release — one sent without context, with no discernable purpose, riddled with unfocused writing and containing no real, usable news at all — can damage a relationship with a journalist. By harming that relationship with a journalist or news organization, you’ve weakening your future ability to gain press traction, possibly for quite a while.
The key to succeeding with a press strategy is to ensure above all else that your news is truly newsworthy. The following recommendations are a good starting point:
- Overall business tactics
- Changes to corporate structure
- New products/enhancements
- New market expansions
- New brands/rebrands
- Trend analyses
- Workforce changes
- Key personnel new hires/retirements
- New positions/redefined positions
- Human resource news (unusual perks; benefit innovations; employee achievements)
- New building, store expansions, renovations
- Performance information
- Year-end, quarter-end, month-end results
- Future projections
- Protecting the brand
- Mitigating damage
- Atoning for errors
- Committing to change
- Moving forward
Crisis Communications is a whole, separate animal that we will examine in-depth later.
The key is to constantly consider the following: Is this news? Will journalists and the readers they serve care?
If an intended item is merely a vanity piece for the CEO (announcing his hole in one on a nearby golf course), it’s not news. It’s merely your organization clogging up a journalist’s inbox. And that’s a transgression you don’t want to repeat.
One other consideration about the press-release worthiness. Information outside a journalist’s traditional focus can be pitched to them, provided you devise a compelling hook to capture their interest.
In other words, you need to search out a human element in your plain-vanilla stories.
A press announcement of a new fleet of your company cars, for example, may elicit yawns from a busy business editor. But a change in pitch can make a difference. Framing that story by highlighting that your new, all-electric company cars are part of your overall effort to curb carbon emissions may gain you the ink you seek.
Moving forward in this series, we’ll examine best practices for press releases. And the mechanics of other PR tactics such as the use of a media alert.
We’ll also discuss worthy alternatives — like VISTA Today — to a relationship with the traditional press.