Although it’s a common misconception, PR does not stand for “press release.”
I say that a bit tongue-in-cheek, but as PR professionals know, there is a significant number of people who question the value of hiring an agency (or in-house PR practitioner) because “I can write a press release myself.” I can almost hear the PR people out there nodding their heads in agreement.
PR is, in fact, public relations — a component of which is media relations, but it’s not by any means synonymous. If an activity has anything to do with actively relating with your audience, the public, investors, customers or anyone else: It’s PR. Customer service? Part of it is definitely PR. Social media? PR. Working with analysts? PR. I could go on.
But for the purpose of this article, let’s actually go there and talk about press releases… because even those who know a bit more about marketing and PR — enough to be dangerous, one could say — often believe that all news should be heralded by press release. And these same people will be disappointed when each release is not met with widespread coverage and a splashy above-the-fold article in the WSJ.
This is what I tell my clients: Press releases, while a perfectly useful PR tactic, are not always the best way to disseminate news. They don’t guarantee coverage and are not the perfect tool for every situation.
The absolute best public relations strategy is to determine the most effective tactics to reach people. Right? Most often, this means integrated campaigns as part of an ongoing communications process that includes social media, blogs, email, speaking engagements, webinars and podcasts, websites, conference activity, whitepaper placement, personal outreach and pitching to media, bylined articles — and yes, occasional press releases.
I use several criteria when considering issuing a press release to the media:
- How newsworthy do we believe this announcement is? Do we believe it stands a fighting chance of being the one release — out of the hundred a journalist or analyst will receive any given day — of being spared the recycling bin?
- What other announcements have we recently made or are planning to do in the near future? Less is more; releasing too-frequent announcements over a short period can detract from our PR program’s overall impact, even erode credibility.
- Is a release appropriate for the kind of announcement we are making? What are we trying to accomplish with a release that can’t be accomplished another way?
- Do the journalists/bloggers/analysts we are targeting for this story respond to press releases? There are also cultural norms that pertain to PR that vary around the world that we must take into account when releasing different news stories.
- Is a media pickup critical for this kind of news? Can we reach our audience more directly and more effectively another way?
The bottom line is that each organization has its share of important and exciting developments to announce, and each deserves its own considered plan based on available resources. Each announcement you make should be optimized for maximum reach. And if that plan includes a release, then great. But don’t feel too bad if your latest piece of news doesn’t make it into a release. It only means that there are better ways to get it out to the public.
It is, after all, called public relations!
Lynn Christiansen Esquer is a principal at SocialProse Media. This post originally was published on her private blog, Bloggapalooza. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org