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Should You Write a Press Release?

March 28th, 2012

Companies can be quick to issue announcements, hoping that a wire distribution will legitimize their story and gain media interest. It doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes, purchasing a wire distribution for your press release can be an outright waste of money. Let me not knock the press release entirely. It can still be a useful tool if utilized properly, but you must ask yourself a couple of questions before you go the press release route.

Is this “newsworthy?”

This question has more to do with the media than with your business, but it’s important to understand what the media views as news in order to have success with your press release. Typically, business news will fall under one of these categories: new product or service, customer win, award, earnings, executive moves (for high-profile companies), partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, or a new office or market. Even using these guidelines, it’s not always clear. For example, some companies have too many customers to announce every one. Similarly, a developer may update their software regularly with minor patches and upgrades. Not everything is worth its own announcement.

In other words, make sure that the story you want to tell is important and interesting, not for you but for the industry you serve. Ask yourself why your colleagues (or even competitors) would care about this announcement? Are there apparent implications for your industry or market? If you can answer those questions easily, you have a newsworthy press release. If not, you don’t have to abandon the story altogether. It may just need to be told in a different way, using a different communications vehicle.

Is this the best mechanism to get my message across?

A way to test this question is to ask another one, “What do I want from my press release?” Exposure is the knee-jerk response, but for what and to whom? Sometimes, businesses just want to represent a market presence on their website for prospects. In this instance, it may be worth publishing a non-newsworthy press release (relatively speaking) on your website to show certain website visitors that you have a specific expertise. That does not mean, however, that that release should be distributed across a wire, unless, of course, it is newsworthy.

Often, the message you want to communicate to a segment of the public can be accomplished more efficiently in other ways. Leverage existing collateral to weave together stories that you can present to the media with “pitches” – an informal way of suggesting a story idea to a journalist. Case studies can be really useful in this regard. Or, for instance, if your product is visual, you might want to create a video to paint the picture words never can.

There is a multitude of tactics that you can use, but the overarching point here is that you should think of the objective first, not the tactic. This is something we preach at Springboard. You shouldn’t set out to create a press release. Clarify your business objective first. In order to achieve that objective, you might want to communicate a message to a particular audience. Once you’ve established that, ask yourself which communications tactic best serves that objective. Sometimes, it’s a press release. Sometimes, it isn’t.