“The press release is dying.”
A statement that many believe to be true. Judging from the sheer number of awful examples peddled to journalists and editors every day, some might even argue that it’s not dying quickly enough.
And for many PR professionals, who could send out a release to well over 100 journalists but not get one response, the press release has long since fallen out of favour, losing out to a direct email pitch, a good phone call or even a well targeted and timed Tweet.
But why has the press release – formerly the PR’s most useful tool in the toolkit – become so allegedly ineffectual?
There are a whole host of reasons I could list off as to why people have lost faith in the press release. But I won’t. I’ll give you two:
The standard is so much higher
When it comes to getting media attention, or even having your content considered newsworthy, you are having to compete in a market that has never been more crowded or competitive. We live in the information age after all, and with that explosion of information has come a much higher standard for PR distinctiveness.
This leads me on to my next reason for people’s lack of faith in press releases:
People are getting them wrong
This is not a ‘how to’ or a ‘top tips’ blog for press releases, so I’m not going to dedicate too much time to telling you how to write a successful press release. But what I will say is that there are a few mistakes lots of PR professionals and wannabe PRs are making when it comes to using press releases which could account for people’s loss of faith:
- The audience is being ignored – people not understanding who their market is leads to achieving absolutely no coverage.
- Weak headlines – this a carnal sin. The headline is the only thing the journalist will see in their inbox. If you don’t nail the headline with something interesting or thought provoking they won’t open the email.
- Longwinded sentences filled with irrelevant information – journalists are busy people who receive hundreds if not thousands of emails a day; they lose interest quickly if they think you’re waffling. If it’s not fundamental to the story, leave it out.
Why a well-written press release is a PR’s best friend
If done correctly, a press release can be a really useful means of achieving coverage for your business school or university. Its purpose, after all, is to get the attention of journalists in the hope that they ask for more information, or to include your client’s story in their publication. It can give the PR an opportunity to efficiently tell their client’s story to multiple journalists at once.
This is why it is key that PRs get their press releases right. Arguably a PR’s ability, or inability, to produce a strong press release is the ultimate reflection of their understanding of their market.
A good press release takes real skill to produce. The writing must be clear, unfussy and to the point. Sentences have to be structured well. The message has to be immediately apparent. It must be as short and concise as possible, without missing out any key information.
If you get these things right, you will find that your press releases stand out from the crowd, and will achieve your client the coverage they desire.
An example of what a great press release can achieve
If you’re still not fully convinced of the importance of strong press release, here’s an example of how an effective release helped one of our client’s achieve the coverage they were after:
When Imperial College Business School became the first business school in the world to offer their students lectures via hologram, BlueSky was on hand to help share the news with the global media.
The business school wanted to ensure that the benefits of implementing this kind of technology into students’ learning experience was highlighted and understood.
We created a press release, along with a number of pitches on Imperial’s new innovation, taking comment from their educational tech guru, David Lefevre. The press release was featured in 240 media outlets across the world within the first three days of release, from the Telegraph to Poets & Quants, the UK to Brazil.
With a strong press release, BlueSky were able to send Imperial College Business School’s story all over the world, giving them the extensive coverage they wanted.
The press release – while a challenge to master, if done right, can be a PR professional’s best friend, and most useful tool, at the same time.