Public Relations: The best press release is no press release
Here’s a recent question I received via email that I’d like to address right here on the blog. This is a common question, and I think there is a lot of value in the answer for anyone seeking to gain earned impressions in the media for their brand…or even their personal brand.
Congratulations on your new post handling editorial concerns for MarketingSherpa.com. Would you be so kind as to give a short primer on the best way PR folks, who represent marketing companies, can work with you moving forward? Do you like to be kept abreast with news releases and whatnot? We’ve done some work with MarketingSherpa in the past but it appears things have changed on your end and we certainly don’t want to waste your time. Thanks in advance for your help.
Manger of Media Relations
Thanks for the question, Kevin. My short answer is – the best press release is no press release. Just tell me why your proposed case study or article will have value for MarketingSherpa’s 225,000 marketers specifically. You can do this by reading and understanding what we publish on MarketingSherpa, you can not do this by randomly inserting the term “MarketingSherpa” into a canned pitch. Let’s dive into this a little…
Man bites dog
At MarketingSherpa, we receive no shortage of canned pitches and press releases every day. And not to be too harsh, but much like spam, they are sorted appropriately.
Now, I’m sure working in PR is a tough job. And to be fair, I have limited experience in my career on the press-release-writing side of things, but the few times I have been involved, usually the client’s perception on the purpose of a press release was way out of whack with reality (one client didn’t even know what a press release was, just that they wanted one…no joke).
So what is a press release? Wikipedia’s description ends with the clause, “…for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value.” That’s right, even if you’re just making a “claim,” find the “news value.” In case you didn’t take Journalism 101, news value is “Man Bites Dog” and not “My client has an ad campaign.”
Talk to me like I’m your older brother, not your mother
Here’s the analogy I like to use. When you talk to your mother, she’s likely excited and proud about almost anything you have done. “Oh, Jimmy, you have a new ad campaign, how exciting!”
However, try the same pitch with your older brother and see how well that turns out. “Loser. You’re only in advertising because you couldn’t hack it in medicine.” To grab the attention of your older brother, you need something really newsworthy, “The ad campaign we launched six months ago increased revenue by 372% because I did these three innovative things. So I booked a charter flight to the Super Bowl. Want to come, big bro?”
Well, media people are your older brother. I could care less about your new ad campaign. But if you got real results from a client that you’re willing to share that could benefit my audience…well, that’s as valuable to me as a 50-yard-line seat to watch the Jaguars play the Giants in the next Super Bowl.
So don’t even bother with the darn press release. Just send me a personal note and tell me why your specific story should be published on MarketingSherpa. I know, I know, it’s so much easier to do a big PR blast and get picked up somewhere and get some impressions and some SEO. But if you’re looking for quality earned impressions, just send me a note…the canned pitch goes straight in the trash anyway.
In writing this blog post, I’m a little worried I’m being a too harsh on PR people. And, really, I’m trying to help. So I sent my colleague, Andrea Johnson, the above paragraph and asked her opinion. She has more than two decades or public relations experience under her career belt, so her response surprised me. She was even more emphatic than I was. To quote directly from our Skype conversation, “YES!!! Absolutely.” Here’s what else Andrea had to say about news releases…
Publicity is nothing but sales
Your target market is the editor, blogger or reporter, your product is your news. Your goal is to make it very easy for them to say “yes” to whatever you’re selling; editors simply don’t have the time to figure out why they should care, especially in a marketplace that’s absolutely flooded with thousands of news releases every day.
If you want meaningful coverage, pay attention to what they’re writing about, what they care about, and the trends they’re tracking. With that in mind, start a personal conversation about what’s in it for them if they cover your news – that could be, for instance, a fresh, juicy angle on a topic they write about a lot.
News releases make reporters work way too hard to figure out what’s in it for them, but releases can support the conversation. Instead, begin with a simple, thoughtful email referencing what they care about most and how your news perfectly addresses it. You’ll be surprised by your success, especially with B2B trade publications; editors there are absolutely starving for relevant material.
– Andrea Johnson, Editorial Manager, MECLABS Applied Research
You can write it in a letter, babe
To summarize, press releases are not helpful. What is most helpful is a personal letter letting us know why the story you’re seeking to pitch has value for the MarketingSherpa audience. One thing we are always looking for is real case studies with real numbers that we can publish.
Also, here is some boilerplate from our site that might be helpful. But, again, a personal letter as to why this specifically would be a good article for MarketingSherpa is key. Most press releases just end up in the (virtual) trash…
However, be aware that we are *not* a news organization but rather a publisher of Case Studies, benchmark data and how-to instructions.
Our researchers would love your help in identifying client-side (aka brand-side) marketing executives who would make good subjects for our Case Studies. We’ll ask them specific questions about marketing tactics they have personally used, and we’ll expect them to be able to speak to results in some meaningful way.
Yes, agencies and vendors are invited to talk about campaigns they have completed for clients, as long as some sort of results information is included, and the client can be contacted for a quote.
You don’t have to write any case studies for us – we do all our own research and writing. Just suggest folks for us to interview.