Over the last few weeks, our PR firm has had several calls from startups and fast growth companies looking for someone to dispatch a press release on their behalf. While dispatching press releases is part of what PR agencies do, the service is actually far more comprehensive than running a mail merge and organising bulk distribution.
A significant part of the benefit working with a professional, experienced PR team is that they understand how to craft a press release to maximise the chance that the journalist will open it, read it and positively engage with it. We’ve seen media releases written by clients that are so focused on what they do that they forget to talk about why they do it and what the benefit is for the prospective customer. A press release written by a marketing or sales team is doomed from the beginning.
Journalists are storytellers. A press release needs to be created so that it helps the journalist to tell a story that will resonate with their audience. A seasoned PR professional will understand the needs of different journalists and the audiences they serve. Developing a great press release that will skip past the journalist’s delete key and actually be read takes skill and also must convey significant news value. A PR professional will be able to take what you do and craft it into a narrative that will help the journalist create a story.
PR agencies cultivate relationships with journalists and when they dispatch a media release, they are representing their client. Both the agency and the client’s reputation are involved. Part of the expertise you’re paying for is for PR professionals to build you a media list of the right target reporters and media outlets that will be interested in your news.
Successful engagement is about much more than spraying and praying out a media release.
PR professionals will also strategically evaluate your information and will advise to mitigate risk and pitfalls. We’re working to also ensure that the company has thought through all the angles and is ready for any resulting interviews and questions that might be asked.
How often have we seen a company or brand fall into a crisis, all due to failing to complete a 360 degree analysis of what they’re saying, not saying or the way they say it?
One of the most common types of press release from startups and fast growth companies is an announcement of a new customer or partnership. For that to work, it needs to be more than a set of facts. It needs:
- Quotes from both the customer or partner as well as the vendor;
- It needs to be written in plain English without jargon — the journalist and their audience are unlikely to be technical experts in the minutiae of what you do; and
- It must have a story that talks to the benefit for the customer or the partners.
Extracting this detail, creating compelling quotes and knowing how to get the right message approved by all the parties is a large part of what a PR professional can bring to the table.
PR pros know which journalists are most likely to respond positively to the release, and they know how and when to communicate to specific journalists — because understanding when specific media outlets want to receive news is critical. Many publications follow a regular daily and weekly cycle for certain types of stories. PR pros understand those cycles and send releases and approach journalists at the right times to maximise the chance of a successful result.
Media lists are notoriously difficult to maintain. Journalists move between publications and sections regularly. PR pros have their ear to the ground and update their lists far faster than media release services that just pump and dump releases. And savvy PR agencies use CRM tools to monitor engagement rates and understand which journalists are opening their releases and the time of day they do so, ensuring they can better hone things next time around as they constantly seek to improve and maximise coverage chances.
There are services where you can pay to have a media release sent to a range of key categories, but you’re never really sure who it exactly goes to. PR agencies know precisely who it goes to and they follow up with each journalist to find out if they’re interested and want to engage with the story. They don’t just email and cross their fingers and hope for the best: they use media monitoring tools so they know if the story appears in an outlet and they provide you with that insight in real-time.
In the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary, the eponymous Bridget was described as ‘faffing about with the press releases’. But a true professional is very prepared, targeted and intentional in the development and delivery of a press release. And that’s much more than a simple press release distribution service can do.