How to avoid press release road rage

There’s a lot of noise and fury about press releases at the moment. People grumble about how much they hate them – how unimaginative and old-fashioned they are – how insulting and how infuriating.

I wonder if we’ve lost sight of what a press release was supposed to be in the first place? To me it is a means of communicating an idea (or information) from one person to another.

It doesn’t really matter how that message is sent – so long as it is relevant and to the point.

Some people put press releases online for search engine purposes but that is irrelevant here because they are clearly not trying to communicate useful ideas – they simply want to boost their profile artificially with Google. If you read any of this badly written gobbledy gook you will quickly realise that they don’t expect anyone to actually write about it.

So, I think the words Press and Release are holding up our efforts to communicate. If instead of saying “we need to send out a press release” we said,”we need to let people know about this” – we might be getting somewhere.

Obviously there are many different ways to let people know something and by refusing to tie yourself to a rigid format, like a press release, you can come to it fresh every time.

Thinking hard about each message – who might be interested and how they might want to hear about it – is the answer to wiping out press release road rage.

There will always be people who resent you contacting them with any kind of message. Some journalists and producers just love to be affronted and being affronted by a pr person is their favourite. There’s not a great deal you can do about them. Having said that, I do try to work out what they are so cross about and what it is they really want. The answer is usually a story that’s going to win them a book deal or get them on the front page – sadly I don’t often have one of those.

Effective communicators – either born or trained – know this already. It is not news to them that each message should be tailored. Where people struggle is when they are locked into tired processes which dictate that there has to be a press release – or when clients don’t really understand how it all works and ask for what feels safe.

Such a lot of this game is luck and timing – or simply lucky timing. Your idea arrives at exactly the point where producer A is thinking of doing a story about your thing. Our job is to try to get the right messages, to the right people at exactly the right time and now in the right format.

Good luck with that! And remember, to increase your chances of success – come to it fresh every time.

P.S. I have not listed all the alternatives to the press release – the point is not to be prescriptive and I would love to hear your ideas – but for what it’s worth I prefer an e-mail with the option of more information on request, but whatever you do don’t refer to that as a press release!


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