Many times, I see press releases that look very nice – perhaps written like a blog post or product offering. Technically 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, they are destined for the graveyard of the client’s website “news section,” where it might be seen by a few people.
Why is press coverage so important? Because it is much more powerful having a third party convey your message and much more cost effective in relation to advertising (which lacks credibility and is much more expensive).
Reaching 400 people through a LinkedIn post is great, but what about reaching 20,000 through an article in a demographically compatible trade publication? Or reaching 200,000 through an article in the Harvard Business Review or 800,000 through an article in the Wall Street Journal?
Generating positive press coverage is extremely powerful in creating and shaping awareness. Then, taking this coverage and pushing it 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 over 100 journalists around the world at major newspapers, radio and TV stations, magazines and news wire services. While there were slight variations based on the 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 are 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.
When evaluating a potential PR provider, do this:
1. Look at case studies of where the client came with a need to reach a specific audience and how that need was filled. Remember, the greater the number of demographically compatible people reached, the better.
2. Ask to see situations where creative thinking was needed to create a news story when one was not there or they met an initial lack of interest.
3. Make sure the person who managed the examples they are showing is still there and will be your account lead, as you are hiring a person, not a company.