When I started college, my professor said that the difference between public relations (PR) and advertising was that advertising was paid and that PR wasn’t. I think I heard the proverbial “record” come to a screeching halt since I, like most of my classmates, thought that that meant that we wouldn’t ever get paid. Obviously, that’s far from the truth.
Advertising is paid placement of ads-print, digital, it doesn’t matter-you pay for your association or client to be seen and you are guaranteed for it to appear. Public relations is not guaranteed and needs to be presented as an article or story that a reporter or news outlet can pick up and use. Make it too “salesy” or too long and you’re headed for the trashcan. PR requires the use of a different voice, not appearing as an ad. Some don’t see merit in PR and will bypass it for marketing or advertising methods-both of which are also successful-but PR is far from dead and will promote your message when used in unique and dynamic ways.
Be pitchy. A full release can often deter the receiver. A great method of communicating your message is to pitch the subject in a short email, making it a conversation, not an email blast or long and formal release. By simply saying, “I know that you cover XYZ and I think you’d be interested to know that…,” you can gain greater coverage while possibly developing a relationship with the media contact.
Better together. There are times when a reporter is already in the process of writing or covering a topic related to your client or association. Know who is covering your industry. Even if they cannot run or use your information at that moment, they could use it later, asking for your help to compile the story. Quality content is not dismissed or forgotten.
We’re exclusive. If you have a major announcement, target one outlet and offer an exclusive interview with your president, CEO, etc. If you don’t receive a response, move on to another one. While it may take time, it can result in coverage that highlights not only your topic, but also positions your interviewee as a subject-matter expert.
It’s okay to be (info)graphic. Not all press releases have to be words. According to MIT, 90% of information sent to the brain is visual and content containing color visuals increases the reader’s probability of reading the article by 80%. Infographics can be read quickly, an added benefit since reporters, like everyone else, have little to no time to read through the many releases they receive a day.
Picture it. Releases are better with images if they can be provided. Headshots, grand opening ribbon-cutting-whatever photos you have that are related to the story make it more attractive, not only to the reporter but also the audience. As listed above, visual components are picked up more than articles with just text. If your news is better communicated using pictures, send them with the release or pitch rather than relying on the reporter to request images from you. Deadlines are tight, and stories need to be pulled together sometimes with little to no notice so giving them what they need upfront can give your content an added edge.
Grouped together. If possible, don’t send your release as a group email and if you must, make sure to blind copy the receivers to respect their privacy and to avoid the awesome thing we all know as “reply-all.” It’s better to be personal and reach out to individuals but that can’t always happen, especially when you’re trying to reach a large audience on a deadline. When sending to a group, it’s imperative that your subject line and opening stand out.
You gotta know when to hold your release. There are times that call for a press release and times that do not. There are also media contacts that are more appropriate than others to receive your news. When you’re planning on distributing a press release, think about the topic and really ask yourself, “Will the potential audience really care about this?” Sometimes it’s better to send news that is industry specific to trade media and then your broader, general releases to your main media list. As hard as it may be, know that your news-as exciting as it is to you-may not be as exciting to others. Sometimes, it’s just better to hold the release, and post your announcement on your blog, promoting it on social media.
As long as people are looking for the latest updates and news, there is a need for public relations. Messages, experts and content will always be sought after to create the best coverage and delivery of the topic-and that’s not fake news.