Long live the media release!
In the years before the rampant digitisation of the media (and life in general), the humble media release would be faxed (look it up) or mailed to journalists. Its content and newsworthiness would be duly assessed before the journo added balancing quotes and additional information. The release, back then, was just one piece – perhaps the first piece – of a potential story puzzle.
Today though, the media release has lost a lot of its impact in an age where content is a commodity and the lines between quality journalism and advertorial are blurrier than ever.
It’s a perfect storm: as newsrooms around the world continue to shrink in the face of falling newspaper circulation, media outlets struggle to convince consumers long accustomed to accessing free content that they should now actually pay for it.
While the resources required to produce quality, balanced content have diminished, the platforms through which content is delivered have increased dramatically. Media outlets now need more content than ever, and the result – in some cases – has been an unfortunate lowering of editorial standards. What’s considered ‘news’ today isn’t so much to do with an issue’s traditional news value, but dependent on the pressures a respective outlet is under to deliver regular, fresh content. Near enough is good enough.
It’s for these reasons, and others, that some people say the media release is ‘dead’ as a means of controlling or directing the news agenda. I disagree. I still think the media release can be effective as long as it’s treated as just one tool in what is now a very big media relations toolkit.
A good release will inform, surprise and serve your business’ interests as well as those of journalists and media outlets scrambling for content. In the current media landscape, where content is king, there are a few things you need to keep front of mind to maximise the chances of your release being picked up.
- Make it newsworthy. A no brainer. Constantly ask yourself ‘so what?’ when you’re drafting a media release. Know the seven news values – impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, bizarreness, conflict, and currency – and ensure what you’re sending out adheres to at least a few.
- Tell a story. Sounds simple, but too many businesses fill their release up with the same boring corporate copy, the same phrases, the same ‘nothing’ quotes. Think outside the box; by telling a compelling story and including colourful – even provocative – quotes while avoiding jargon, you can provide the spark for a story that a journalist can run with.
- Do journos’ jobs for them. In the age of the convergent newsroom, where content is routinely repurposed, republished and rehashed for various online, print, radio and broadcast platforms, providing a release which could just about stand alone as its own story is going to be welcomed by a time-poor, overworked section editor or gatekeeper. Seek out a balancing source to add to comments made by your own internal contact. Draft the release as objectively as you can so it reads like an actual article.
- Know your audience. If you’re in professional services, it’s highly unlikely your release on a new business tool/appointment/innovation is going to be picked up by a lads magazine or New Idea. So why send to such publications? Know the publications that are open to your business’ news. Produce tailored distribution lists to ensure your releases are going to the right outlets; it’s much better than a scattergun approach and will get you better results, as well as go some way to forming relationships with section editors.
- Pair your release with other assets. Got a photo? Send it in with the release. Got video? Send it in. Pairing other assets with the release itself presents an attractive package to editors who are working across multiple platforms.
- Surf the agenda. Look for an issue that’s currently being written about or reported on, and tailor your release to link to it. It’s often much easier to jump on the back of an existing issue –providing your own business’ viewpoint and contributing to an ongoing debate – than it is trying to start the debate itself.
The media release isn’t dead, but for it to stand out among the plethora of other attention grabbing tactics used by communications and public relations professionals today, you’ve got to ensure it has impact. Your time, like that of journalists, is too important to waste; make it count!
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