“We need a press release!” I’ve heard this from countless clients. I heard it recently from a nonprofit who asked for a press release to share the organization’s position on an issue. My response to this request is always, “What do you want to accomplish?”
Despite what many people think, the term public relations does not stand for press release. The press release has been the key tactic in public relations practitioners’ toolkits for many years. Public relations is about building relationships and working with the “publics” important to your brand or company. Those publics can be internal or external audiences, and they can require vastly different communication channels to reach them.
As a lecturer at a state university, I teach PR students to write press releases as a writing tactic they need to know in this industry. But to ensure students are on the forefront of what’s happening in PR, my approach goes beyond teaching them to write a document. We talk about listening to what is being asked and understanding the goals to build a strategy and stories to achieve it. The writing and storytelling are as important as ever, but what we do with the stories has changed, and there are so many new opportunities for what to do with content.
Until we shift the thinking universally, press releases continue to be a misunderstood tactic. On its own, a typical press release is nothing. Even by distributing it via a news wire service, the promise of unique stories and positive news is nonexistent. For a while, we told clients the release was great for search engine optimization (SEO) and to post on the company website for archive purposes. But that approach is outdated as search engines now exclude press releases in search so consumers looking online won’t see the content in a release.
Unless you are a large or public company and/or have investor news, the press release probably isn’t the right tactic for your organization. So, what is? The approach should be built around the answer to the question, “What do you want to accomplish?”
Do you want a story to reach people in your local city? A customized story angle relevant for that local market can be developed and pitched to the right reporter/section. For example, we’ll take the story of your story or product to the Denver Post (and other local websites) so you can reach residents in that area.
Do you want consumers talking about your brand? Let’s look at the social media strategy and engagement and then develop content to effectively reach the people already talking online.
Do you want to establish your expertise in the industry with thought leadership? We’ll develop a focused plan to reach industry trade outlets, creating and pitching editorial content, and building relationships with contacts to help place the stories. In the cannabis industry, most of the publications accept editorial submissions and welcome new content and story ideas.
Do you want consumers to find stories about your brand when they search online? An integrated content plan that establishes your expertise and places stories across your owned channels (website, blog) and social platforms in addition to editorial content in news outlets and is a strong approach. Adding sponsored/paid content to the plan can be another option.
Do you want your existing customers to see a story or brand news? Don’t spend time or money on earned media that may or may not reach your customer base. Think about how you can create unique content with video or images and incorporate it into your website and social platforms. We can write compelling stories for email blasts or other marketing channels you have in place (or create them for you).
None of the scenarios require a press release. It requires thinking through the goals, creating content and ideas for stories, and putting them where your intended audiences will see it. Collaboration with other marketing communications can result in efficiencies as your content all works hand in hand.
Creative, compelling, and differentiating stories are still at the heart of what we do in public relations, and we love working with clients to uncover those stories. WYD can help your brand define its goals and create a smart, integrated public relations approach. We understand the intricacies of PR and marketing in today’s rapidly changing environment. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org today.