Most press releases are awful. There, I’ve said it. People send them to me and I delete the majority. It’s not the quality every time, though. It’s the relevance, or rather lack of it.
Press release work must be the bane of the public relations executive’s life, to say nothing of the pain it is to the business owner taking the DIY approach. I can often tell they’ve taken care and drafted a press release well – but what happens to them next is crucial.
It’s clear they’ve sent them to me in my role as “any old journalist”.
Here’s a thought: I’m a technology journalist who also writes a bit about business. I edit New Statesman Tech for the moment and Professional Outsourcing Magazine and do a whole load of one-off bits and pieces, but they’re all in the business and tech area. I’ve done little else for at least two years. So I end up asking myself why have I received the following in recent months:
- A query about whether I am writing anything about gifts people buy each other when they get engaged;
- Something on quality wooden toys for the Christmas market;
- A recipe for whole sea bass with orange butter;
- A solicitation to sample some beer (I always say “yes please but I don’t write about beer” – nobody sends me the free beer these days)
- Top tips on winter skin care
- A luxury hotel in London
OK, I used to run a lifestyle blog for middle-aged men so the first, fourth and fifth might be understandable. They are out of date, though. The company that sent me loads of press releases on female sex aids a couple of years back was fascinating but not something I’d be writing about.
Send your press release wisely
Too many people see the word “journalist” in someone’s job title and send out a press release regardless of any specialism that writer might have. It’s honestly, honestly worth thinking about who I am and what I write about before sending it off.
You’re actually better off making a smaller list. Take the top ten journalists, bloggers, websites or magazines on which your business would like coverage. You’re never going to get into all ten, the competition’s immense – so why not improve the quality of your pitch and tailor individual releases/communications rather than send the same thing to 20 people?
The personalised approach often works better. I get the impression you’ve made an effort and know who I am, and over time you get a feel for who’s going to respond to what.
Just don’t get stalkerish. I had a call about 15 years ago from a nervous young PR person. My then-new daughter was safely at nursery and the shaky young (male) voice started off, before even introducing himself: “How is your daughter, Guy..?”
If I’d had security staff they’d have been onto it like a shot.