If you’ve seen the ever-fantastic “Field of Dreams” movie, I do not have to remind you of the ghostly whisper, “If you build it, they will come.” You thought about it the second I mentioned the movie, didn’t you?
Well, unfortunately, that same immediate reaction is tied to press releases in public relations — “If you send it, they will come.” Oh! If only that were true!!!
There is so much that goes into a good media relations program — things clients and executives never see. Too often, people think that if it’s a well-written news release and their quotes are strong, of course they’ll be on the front page! But nothing could be farther from the truth. A great release is just the beginning.
One of the first factors that can make a difference in placing a story is service. We walk a fine line in PR. We want our client or employer to come out on top — they are experts, they have great things going on, etc. But, we also have a service role to fulfill for reporters. We have to give them accurate, objective and newsworthy information. If the release or “news” is too self-serving, vague or incorrect, it is actually harmful to send it out. It hurts our indvidual credibility as well as that of our client, and it decreases the chances of getting coverage ever again from anyone who wasted their time reading our non-news release. Not good.
So, good service — recognizing real news and packaging it appropriately — comprises one of the first steps in a successful media pitch.
I will never forget the time, in my first PR job, where I was asked to send a news release out about a bake sale. This was before the gift of social media. E-mail was just taking off, and there was no web site to speak of. In fact, the whole web site topic was confusing and mysterious. So, back in those days, it was challenging to let people know what was going on. And, since this was a non-profit organization, there was always something going on, but I really did not think we should “waste” a pitch on a bake sale.
I already felt compromised, sending out press releases over borderline events and topics under the organization’s belief that any positive attention would help cut through the competitive non-profit contest for funds. They were probably right, in theory, but I really fought the bake sale news release to the point of fuming. “It’s not news!” I said, until I was blue in the face.
In all honesty, I don’t remember if I won or lost the fight, but I still know that I was right, and this is a small example of an epic battle many have fought in PR. If it’s not news, you cannot “spin” it into anything else. It will fall flat and go nowhere. That’s one guarantee we can make in the realm of media pitching.
I have more to share on this topic, for sure, including other reasons why a great news release might fall flat — even when there’s a newsworthy story to tell. Heck — just a few weeks ago I had a TV news camera at an event, client interviews, the works … and it never ran. Of course, those of us in PR can all relate to a story like that — or the news conference/event where no on comes (I hate that one) – but explaining this to others is difficult, so stay tuned as we continue to lift the PR ”Wizard of Oz” curtain a little higher next time.