We can see it now: your company distributes a press release announcing big news. You wait on pins and needles, eagerly anticipating the newspaper and television headlines heralding your success…only they never come.
What happened? You know a press release was sent out. Doesn’t that mean news coverage should follow? The answer is, “Not necessarily.”
Securing news coverage is a complex and time-consuming endeavor. Typing words, slapping “Press Release” at the top and sending the document to a journalist does not mean it will show up in the paper the next day – there’s no guarantee a reporter will even read it.
If your company sent out a press release and nothing came of it, here are the five most likely reasons why:
Reason 1: The message was off
The press release could have been too long; reporters are busy and need you to get to the point quickly. It also could have been too short; if you didn’t share enough information to make it clear why the journalist should care, he or she may not have grasped what was newsworthy about it.
Also, your message could have been too “salesy.” If your press release reads like a commercial, full of self-promotional verbiage, a journalist is going to toss it (while wondering why you didn’t contact the advertising department instead).
Most importantly, the message may have been irrelevant to the journalist and/or the news outlet, and hence, irrelevant to the audience. That leads us to the next possible reason…
Reason 2: It didn’t get to the right person
It’s imperative to get the press release to the right person(s). There is no sense in sending the sports reporter a press release announcing a company merger (unless the merger’s between the NFL and MLB – now that would get the sports reporter’s attention).
Step one in getting the press release to the right person is identifying the right news outlets for your news. Then the staff list can be combed for the specific journalist(s) who cover the type of news you have to share. It takes time, research and a firm understanding of the news media landscape to get press releases to the right people.
Reason 3: The approach was wrong
A press release is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to getting news coverage. There are plenty of occasions when a press release is the surest way to translate your announcement into a news story. But, sometimes there are better and more effective approaches to sharing your news.
A press release may have flopped not because the information was bad, but because it would have been better off as a news brief, or a story pitch, or a bylined guest column. Identifying and strategizing which news outreach approach is best ties directly to understanding the needs of the journalists and news outlets you’re targeting.
Reason 4: Poor follow-up
As previously mentioned, reporters are busy. Many get hundreds of emails a day, and sometimes they miss press releases they otherwise may have been interested in. Following up with reporters after sending a press release (such as re-sending the press release) is perfectly acceptable and typically recommended – given you are respectful and confident they’d be interested in this news (re-read Reason 2 above). This is especially effective – or at least well received – if the person following up already has a good relationship with the journalist.
Also, it’s essential that the person listed as the “Media Contact” on your press release understands the news cycle and importance of being highly responsive to requests from journalists. Many times, when reporters receive a press release of interest, they want to interview a company representative. If they cannot reach the Media Contact or can’t get the information or interview they need by their (sometimes very tight) deadline, the opportunity for news coverage could pass you by.
Reason 5: It just wasn’t your day
The news is unpredictable. The same press release could result in a front-page story one day or not make the paper at all on a different day. There is only so much news a media outlet can report on any given day, so sometimes the result of a press release is determined purely by luck. You could have a very strong press release that follows all the guidelines above, but if a national catastrophe hits and monopolizes the media for the day – or week – your news could get lost in the shuffle.
That’s why having an ongoing, multifaceted media relations program has advantages. It means there’s a sustained effort to continually pursue news coverage for your organization without the risk of a single press release going out on what could be an “off” day.