Why sending media releases is a dying art

Media training 101Companies regularly ring us to price ‘sending out a media release’, and in almost every case, we explain the chances of receiving coverage is unlikely if this is their only tactic – unless the media already has an interest in them.

This is the result of several factors including:

  • falling advertising support means there are less pages being produced in many printed publications, which means less space to fill with editorial content
  • online publishers, professional and consumer generated, have increased in numbers, many focused on niche sectors and needing unique content
  • receiving a media release flags to a journalist that the news has been broadly distributed – instantly rendering it less newsworthy in most cases.

There is more competition between publishers than ever before.  The days of several or more publications simultaneously running a mildly interesting news release on face value have gone. Media outlets compete to find angles and stories their competitors don’t have, apart from the huge stories that they can’t afford to ignore.

So if you send a media release (and don’t do anything else) then you may as well write “I’ve sent this same news to all your competitors” across the top of it.   You probably know what happens next – not much.

That said, you still need a media release; it will be useful as a backgrounder or a fact sheet to back up the other media activities you do, and it is useful to have all the facts and client approved quotes and messages written down.

It is also useful to link to it from your newsroom, load it onto PR newswires and other news sites so it gets profiled by Google. Just don’t expect it to result in a large breaking news story on its own.

If your news is important and you want to engage with the media, then you need to invest time customising your angles and offering resources that best suit each of them.  Give them something they can actually use.  Often the best thing you can offer is a good quality spokesperson (who has the expertise, an opinion and some in-market experience to draw on) who can explain the news, and why it’s important.  More importantly, they can provide answers to the different questions that different journalists ask.

So, is this approach the silver bullet?  Well, no.  The reality is, the companies who usually ask us to send out a media release have rarely, if ever, spoken to the media before.  That means they have an even heavier load to lift.  If the media hasn’t heard from you before, they wouldn’t know if you’re important or not, which makes it very hard to know whether to pay attention to what you say.

My advice?  Think long term.  Get to know the journalists and media outlets you’re most relevant to.

Track their stories and see what they’re interested in and then introduce yourself and your company to them.  In 20 minutes on the phone or over a coffee you can quickly walk the journalist through your company profile, what it does and the kind of successes it’s having.  Set context, put a face to a name, answer any background questions the journalist has and leave it at that.  Then when you have relevant news and you get back in touch, the context has already been set.  You’re not trying to explain who you are before you explain what your news is.

In summary, distribute media releases sparingly.  Pitch important news – it will give you a much better outcome and, provided you are actually pitching real, relevant news, journalists will usually appreciate it as well.

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