Insights / news

Give me the “˜Good News’ ““ What warrants a press release?

Like many people in PR, my guilty pleasure is to scan through my Twitter feed at random times throughout the day to check on the latest headlines, blog posts, and yes… even meaningless banter.  Yesterday during my daily scan, I came across this blog post that absolutely blew my mind and at the same time, gave me some good laughs.  It was based around 20 funny (yet blunt) opinions on the agency-client relationship, and while some may be over the top, point #3 really got me thinking. (Let’s be honest… humor gets us through most days, so none of these points should be taken to heart!)

Plain and simple, point #3 stated: “Few things actually warrant a press release…”

This one statement brought me right back to another great (and again, blunt) article strictly about why editors delete our press releases. And there’s no better way to hear it from an Assignment Editor herself, right? 

With our role as PR pros, come those occasional moments where your client gives you an idea of what they believe is a good story for a press release, but as they are pitching the idea to you, in your own head you’re thinking: “This is not news.”  And with that thought, comes the anxiety of telling your client that their idea is not newsworthy.  I have definitely lost sleep over this.  The reality is that you want to be a proactive, trusty consultant but at the same time, you don’t want to tarnish your relationship with a client.

I think a great way to put things into perspective for clients is to have them put themselves in the shoes of a reporter.  Set the stage for them: the reporter is answering phones, emails, checking their social media channels; they are working with photographers and editors; the newsroom is constantly buzzing; the ‘down time’ is rare.  So why should your story catch their eye?  A press release that is not useful or newsworthy to the reporter can get deleted within seconds, even after hours of hard work has been spent on it.

Now, when you do receive a newsworthy idea from a client, here are a few pointers to remember when pitching the story to a reporter:

  • Who, What, Where, Why and How – Always put these within the first paragraph.  If the reporter has to search for important information, you are making their job difficult.  It’s also good to remember to hyperlink the key messages within your story to direct the reporter to the right place, instantly.

  • Detach yourself from the habit of attachment – Plain and simple: Opening an attachment is an extra step for the reporter.  Put your release in the body of the email.

  • Long story short – Keep your pitch short.  Give the reporter the big picture and high points. If your story is good, the reporter will contact you for the rest. Get in and get out!

The lesson here is that the key to pitching to a reporter is to think like one.

In terms of receiving press release ideas from clients that aren’t so earth-shattering, I welcome all stories and recommendations of how you let them know that it will not make the news.  How do you tell your clients that their story is not newsworthy without offending them?