why your press release stinks

Why Your Press Release Stinks

I’ve been on both sides of the coin: the director of communications for a company seeking positive press and the account executive hired by a company seeking positive press. I’ve worked with CEOs, CMOs, vice presidents of marketing, business development and compliance, general counsels, etc… and at the end of the day they all want the same thing: the press to write or say something good and accurate about the company. When that doesn’t happen, they have expected me to explain (and rectify) the situation.

There’s no easy way to explain to a confused business leader why their news isn’t, well, making news. As public relations professionals, we usually know or at least have an idea why the story isn’t gaining any traction but from time to time we may be just as befuddled as our clients and superiors. So I’ve tried to compile a list of reasons that alone or bundled together can be the root cause of why you aren’t getting any press.

This is why your press release stinks.

  1. It’s not news. The whole idea of news is that it is new information. If you’re sharing information about an event that happened a week ago that has no tie-in to today’s date, chances are your message (email or voicemail) will go unanswered. If your client or boss asks you to do this, be sure you push back. This is a waste of everyone’s time.
  2. Wrong audience. If you’re a business that operates in a business-to-business model like a CRM company, most of your news is for the B2B community. This means consumer-focused media outlets (with the exception of the business page in a daily newspaper) aren’t likely to run your story. Think of it this way, what do your customers read, watch or listen to? That’s where you want to be.
  3. It’s too complicated. If your announcement is nothing but a bunch of technical or legal jargon, only technical and legal writers will understand it. Be sure press releases are written for the intended audience in a manner they can easily digest. The KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is key in a press release.
  4. Bad timing. Unfortunately, we often have no control over this one. There were plenty of companies who issued press releases the day Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was sworn in, but you never saw it because it was under a pile of articles regarding the new speaker and changes in Washington since that was the big story of the day. Mondays tend to be busy days for reporters (just like they are for you and me). Distribute releases on Tuesdays or Wednesdays to increase your odds of getting the attention of targeted reporters, bloggers and columnists.

An integral piece of the services Field Public Relations offers our clients is PR consulting and strategy. It’s our goal to make sure a press release never stinks and our clients are able to maximize their news for longer than 24 hours. We pride ourselves in honest feedback (like, “We can’t understand this announcement. The press won’t either.”) and content development that fits the targeted audience(s) of our clients.

What are some other reasons why a press release stinks? How have you broken the news to a supervisor or client that an announcement won’t be successful or why it isn’t gaining any traction? We’d love to hear your war stories!

The Case for Public Relations

Businesses have likely been seeking media coverage since the first newspaper, the Acta Diurna, was published in 59 B.C.. In the brief history of the United States, public influence and communication management has played a pivotal role in the settling of the colonies, our independence from Great Britain, the movement to abolish slavery, women’s suffrage, and the distribution of World Wars I and II propaganda. However, it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that public relations became a profession supported by trade associations, PR-focused news magazines, international PR agencies, and academic principles. Through the years, PR has evolved from a marketing tactic into its own profession with specialties including investor relations, technology PR, social media, and crisis management.

Businesses today expect more than just media coverage from PR agencies. They are seeking reputation management, third party validation from social media influencers, brand mentions, awards, and improved communications with their constituents. And they’re willing to pay for it. The global PR industry grew by 7% in 2014 and, for the first time, the top 250 PR firms in the world cracked the $10m barrier in terms of fee income last year, reporting $10.4bn compared to $9.7bn in 2013.

As with many other consulting and business services, public relations provides a means to an end. An investment in PR is the best solution for companies looking for third-party validation, improved search rankings, brand mentions, and enhanced general awareness and reputation.

But not every business can afford to keep a PR firm on retainer, nor should they. PR is not reserved for the businesses with the biggest budgets. It’s available to everyone, regardless of revenue or industry. The hard part is finding the PR agency that best fits your organization’s goals and budget.

What are your goals? Let’s discuss how public relations can impact your business.