Before social media and online newsrooms became a primary method of disseminating information, press releases were a great way for companies of all sizes to make big announcements. These included everything from key hires and company expansions to new product lines and mergers and acquisitions. Brands and PR agencies issued press releases to journalists and news outlets, hoping their news would attract media attention.
In some cases, that’s still true, but the traditional press release has lost a bit of its luster. Companies are launching their own blogs and newsrooms on their websites, creating company pages on Medium, or making their announcements on social media. Those methods work well too, so press releases should be reserved for only the biggest of news.
5 reasons to issue a press release
Here are five cases in which issuing a well-written, properly-placed press release might attract the media’s attention.
- Make major announcements. These run the gamut from the items noted above to significant industry awards (not like the “major award” in Christmas Story), unique innovations, huge contracts, contests and competitions, community involvement, FDA approvals, etc.
- Share your news – good or bad – first. Have you heard the phrase “get in front of the story”? Companies issue press releases to try to beat the spread of misinformation. For example, if there has been a data breach at your company, don’t bury the news and wait for it to leak out. Get in front of the story by going to the media yourself. Yahoo got itself in trouble a few years ago by hiding a very serious data breach. As a result of their failure to disclose the breach, the company paid a $35 million penalty. Painful as it might have been, sharing their own news would have been in their best interests.
- Tell your side of the story. If you weren’t able to share your news before it got out, tell your side of the story in a news release. For example, the DOJ, state attorneys general and individual companies are suing Google for anticompetitive behavior. Google will get its day in court, but in the meantime, Google has posted its side of the story to its blog. A news release would have worked well for this too.
- Draw attention to your brand. High profile news is a great way to drive or enforce brand awareness. In January, for example, WW (formerly Weight Watchers) announced that James Corden was joining the company as a brand ambassador. This news attracted James Corden fans, and reinforced for WW members that the program has a mass appeal, driving and solidifying brand awareness.
- Launch a new product or service. If your company is launching a new product or service, a news release is a great way to share the information. The key here is to get the news release and details of the product or service in the right hands. A broadcast TV station may not be interested that you are now producing widgets in 36 colors, but a trade journal about widgets would likely carry the news.
5 reasons not to issue a press release
There are also reasons not to do a press release. Here are five times to find other ways to share your news.
- Your company has launched a new website. Congrats on upgrading your customer experience! Your customers and Google will love you. Unfortunately, unless you are donating $10 to your local food bank for every home page click or giving away free puppies, the media will not cover your website relaunch. It does not mean your news isn’t important; it just doesn’t beat out other news of the day.
- You’re patting yourself on the back for doing something you should be doing anyway. This happened at the outset of the pandemic. States and local jurisdictions issued shelter in place orders and required masks to go into essential businesses. They also imposed cleaning protocols and occupancy requirements for businesses to keep their doors open, even if only for curbside pick-up or delivered orders. Following the law or mandates is required and wise, but it isn’t news. Instead, try reaching your customers in other ways such as flyers, ads, postcards or emails to let them know you’re open, tell them what has changed (e.g., business hours, occupancy restrictions for your particular business, etc.), and that you value their business.
- You are relocating your business. In some cases, business relocations are big news. For example, if you are a large manufacturer who is moving to another state, your decision impacts a lot of employees, vendors and customers. This is news. Amazon building a second headquarters in Virginia is also a major headline. However, if you are a smaller company moving across town or to the next county over, an email or postcard to your vendors and customers will probably suffice.
- You have made a key hire. When our companies hire top talent, we want to shout this from the rooftops and, to us, this news is huge. We want everyone to know! In most cases, this is not newsworthy enough to make your local news broadcast or newspaper. Another way to share that news is to fold it in with other important company news. For example, last week, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced he is stepping down in the third quarter of 2021. That was not a standalone announcement though. Amazon included the change in the company’s fourth quarter financial news release.
- Your company will be participating in or speaking at a trade show. It’s great that you are getting more involved in your industry, and you want to get in front of potential customers. If you are an expert in the industry, that’s even better! For this to be worthy of a news release though, you need to tease it a bit by sharing that you’ll be making a big announcement at the trade show or rolling out an innovative new product. In other words, tell the media why this trade show is so important they don’t want to miss it.
These are not hard and fast rules, of course. The media and marketing industries are constantly evolving and what makes the news today may not make the news tomorrow. There are so many factors involved in determining what is considered news, how, when and where it should be distributed. For DIY marketers, I’ll cover those items in future blog posts. If you have suggestions or advice to share based on your experience, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you!