When is a press release not just a press release? Always

The power of the hidden agendas of press releases
PR professionals, marketing managers and sales teams all agree press releases need to be part of any communications campaign, but all too often when a company is reporting and analyzing its coverage, press releases are overlooked. A lot of the time they are discounted as ‘syndications’ – which couldn’t be further from the truth when press releases are written and distributed correctly.

So much effort is put into the press release – briefing with the client, briefing with the integration partner, briefing with the customer. Then, painstaking approvals – “we can’t announce this yet”, “we have more employees than that”, “the product can’t actually do that” – we hear them all. Finally, version nine is signed off, but then there’s a debate around the distribution date.

In support of the press release
When written and distributed correctly – whether a news story, an order story, an appointment story or a product story – press releases are a powerful tool. You can tell people as much as you like how large and successful you are, but ‘you would say that, wouldn’t you’? The press release actually demonstrates industry and product leadership with its announcements, customer and vertical market success with its order stories and company growth – not just with its performance announcements. Remember, appointment stories signal growth too – failing companies don’t hire!

Most of the harm has been done by ’newswires’
Press release newswire services have blurred the lines between what can really be considered news. Newswires push an automated press release to a pre-established distribution list. Do they actually end up in the hands of an editor? Very rarely. Indeed, some wire services build their own websites to imitate real news pages.

This coverage can be described as a syndication – it’s literally been syndicated by RSS feeds over various meaningless websites, often next to adverts for Viagra and plastic surgery. No human ever put it there, and more importantly, no human is ever going to read it.

Targeted message, targeted delivery, targeted coverage
That doesn’t mean writing and distributing a press release is pointless. A well-written press release, delivered to the inbox of a real-live journalist (yes, they do exist!) is worth its weight in gold for any PR campaign. Agree a list of target journalists to send your press releases to.

Press releases reinforce your size, success and market leadership and can be delivered alongside placement of longer thought leadership pieces. A thought leadership article is immensely valuable in showing your expertise and understanding of industry and business issues. But remember, for every article placement, a press release will yield multiple news placements.

The hidden agendas of press releases
Every release has its ‘hidden agenda’ – a new product announcement, followed by a customer win, followed by an analyst report demonstrates market traction. At IBA, no press release is ever distributed without a hidden agenda.

A journalist written news feature, or company press release in the news section of a top tier website means it’s been chosen by a journalist who recognizes it as valuable for their readership.

Don’t get hung up that it’s the same copy you worked hard on creating in the first place. Communications theory tells us that the same message received from more than one source is more readily believed.

And don’t worry too much about the distribution date. After all, news is only news when it appears in print, not when it happened.

Jamie Kightley is Head of Pitch&Place at IBA International.

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