Many times, I see press releases that look very nice – perhaps like a blog or product offering. Technically very well-written, it has long quotes and helps push a product – perfect for a brochure or an ad purchase. But without a sense of news value to interest a journalist, these releases are destined for the graveyard of the client’s web site “news section,” where it might be seen by a few hundred people.
Why is press coverage so important? Because while reaching 200 demographically people by way of a LinkedIn post is great, reaching 20,000 through an article or mention in a demographically compatible trade publication is better. And reaching 200,000 through an article in the Harvard Business Review is better than 20,000. And reaching 800,000 through an article or mention in the Wall Street Journal is…well, you get the point.
Generating positive press coverage is extremely powerful in creating and shaping awareness. Then taking this coverage and pushing that messaging through social media, multiplies the number of targets reached. And you are having a third party talk about you, delivering much more credibility.
But here’s the trick: it is very difficult to get the press to write about you or include you in stories. We surveyed more than 100 journalists around the world at major newspapers, radio and TV stations, magazines and news wire services. While there were slight variations based on region on some issues, there was one unanimous finding: they don’t think the press releases and pitch materials that PR people send them are very good. In fact, 90% said that what they receive is deleted after only reading the email subject line – never opening the email. The reason? 75% said that PR professionals do not know what makes something newsworthy and of interest to the press.
There are two required skills in generating press coverage: knowing what makes something “newsworthy,” and being creative enough to make something newsworthy when it isn’t.
And it is very difficult to know what makes something newsworthy unless you have worked as a journalist. Crisis PR expert Michael Sitrick (Exxon Valdez oil spill, Enron, Theranos, etc.) tries to only hire former journalists at his firm: “It’s easier to teach journalists P.R. than to teach publicists what news judgment is.”
So when evaluating a potential PR provider, do this: