AMATEURISM HURTS PR FIELD
Well developed press materials can be a powerful part of a
firm's total public relations program. They get information on
the company's product developments, services, personal changes,
and financial reports where they will do the most good...to the
pertinent publications and on target Ezines. Even though many members of
the press won’t readily admit it; they are also the springboard
for major editorials by the editor on the company, its products,
and its industry position.
Knowing this, we find it appalling that news releases,
the most basic form of external communication for any firm,
receive such little care and attention. Poor and incomplete news
releases and publicity practices, not only make the issuing firm
look bad, they insult an editor's intelligence.
To validate the above statements, we interviewed more than 50 business,
financial and industry publication editors. We talked with
an equal number of on-line editors. Most of them said that they receive an average of 300+
releases per day over the wire, in the mail and sent electronically. More than three-fourth of the releases they receive are so weak or amateurish that they go directly into the wastebasket (electronic or physical).
Gauge Editorial Needs
How should publicists go about providing information that will be used?
There is usually a lot going on in an organization that is
of interest to an editor. The good "stuff" isn't delivered to you on
a silver platter. A good public relations person has to be like
a good reporter and dig out the information.
Then the person who is writing the publicity has to
determine what the information's worth is to the company, to the
editor, and to the reader. If it doesn't serve all three, forget
Once you have found company information worth announcing,
determine the publication(s) you want to target. It's quite
simple for anyone who is doing PR to gauge the editorial
requirements of a given publication or group of publications.
All he or she has to do is read a few issues and study the
editorial direction/ emphasis. It’s surprising – scary – how few
people actually read the publications that cover their industry as
well as their primary and secondary markets.
If the publicity writer is worth his or her salt, he
or she will provide news releases that have the style, content,
and necessary current angle to satisfy the publications'
Those are the releases that get published.
The Creative NEWS Release
Over the years, we have seen literally reams of releases
that pass right over editors' desks, across their screens and into the circular file.
For the most part, the releases uniformly lack any spark of
writing excitement, comprehension of news style, or the solid
information that gets an editor interested and maybe even
Here some basic guidelines our organization regularly
follows when preparing news releases for the press:
* Write the release simply and factually to make certain the
full story is told as quickly as possible.
* When the story dictates, prepare a strong, in-depth
backgrounder that gives the facts, not personal "puff." This
kind of information should assist the editor, not flatter
* Photographs should be real, not with sharp contrasts, not
retouched ad shots. Make certain that the cutline explains
the photo and ties into the release. Hand shaking events, stiff suited mug shots, dull products on a non-descript or very busy background seldom find their way into print. The
editor is looking for information for his or her readers, not
sex or self-serving ego shots.
The release should contain the name, telephone number and e-mail
address of the person who can be contacted for additional information.
In fact, it's a good practice to add the home telephone number
so that the editor can make contact while the news is hot in
his or her mind.
* If the release describes a brochure, catalog or data sheet,
include a copy. It is good source material for future
articles and it gives the editor more information to work
* Just as salespeople tailor their information to the interests
of their prospects, write the release with a specific
publication's or group of publications' readers in mind.
* If the product has a number of applications, write separate
and tailored/targeted releases with the leads and body copy
focused to appeal to each class of publications. Properly
done, the results can be dramatic.
If you analyze any business-oriented product category, it
can't possibly be of interest to 200-300 business and trade
publication readers. Yet a common practice with people who
relate quantity to quality and who weigh clippings by the pound
is to cast/spam releases to the four winds in hope that someone,
somewhere, will find something of interest and print their gems
of creative genius.
Even firms that are able to find information and present it
in a way that might interest the editors often fall short when it
comes time to getting the piece out.
Commonly voiced complaints of the Editors regarding the
most simple of PR activities--publicity handling--include:
* Hand-delivering a release to an editor to make certain
that he or she receives it
* Reading a release to the editor over the phone
* Simultaneously giving the release to four or five editors at
the same publication
* Emailing the release and then calling to make certain that the editor received the release
or to ask if it is okay to send him or her a release
Meaningless personal notes accompanying a release
Excessively long releases
Cute, meaningless and trivial notes in an email before the editor gets to the message
Spamming the release to 50-100+ editors listing all of their names/addresses before the reporter can get to the reason for the email
Embedding the release in the email and attaching an HTML copy that must be downloaded and usually discarded before it is open (no one trusts unsolicited attachments any more).
Requesting that no changes be made in the release copy
Expecting clippings of the printed release
Making no bones about pointing out the fact that the firm is
also an advertiser
Few public relations professionals can honestly say that
they haven't been guilty in one or more of these areas at one
time or another. Actually, we're a lot like our editorial
counterparts ... we work hard to get an item that we feel is
But this is a far cry from the marketing neophyte
who feels that he or she has a hidden talent for writing and
placing "masterpieces" for a company.
Publicity is a Powerful Tool
An organized, well-executed publicity program which is
integrated into the firm's total effort can reap handsome
results. It can:
* Make readers aware of the company, its products, its
* Pave the way for the sales force
* Help explore new potential markets
* Build relations with present customers
* Establish a stronger position with the financial community
If the company isn't looking for this approval, acceptance,
and coverage, then they can let a clerk or junior member of the
organization handle publicity and news releases. However, it has
always been my opinion that good publicity deserves attention
since it can contribute the sale of goods and result in profits
for the company.