Companies that want to communicate via the media should plan this carefully. As a former journalist myself, here are a few simple tips and guidelines that should help you get prepared.
I. The press release is not dead yet! Use it, but use it properly. While this might sound obvious, it is often overlooked: bring news and come up with an attractive title. Journalists do not just sit around waiting for the delivery of commercial messages praising companies. They will quickly glance through their inbox and if the message you are delivering isn’t worth their attention, your press release will be shoved aside and discarded. A link with current events can also contribute to draw the attention of journalists. Don’t overdo it, but it should be eye-catching and stand out from the constant flow of press releases that journalists receive daily.
II. Don’t beat about the bush. Get straight to the point, it works best. Lengthy press releases prompt the journalist to give up early. Limit your press release to an A4 sheet that highlights the most important information. If you wish to add extra explanation about a specific point, it is better to include them as attachment (for example in a fact sheet).
III. Provide a few ready–made quotes and pictures. Helping out journalists by providing them with pertinent material they can use will be highly appreciated, given their limited availability and their deadline pressure.
IV. Let go. You can’t control what journalists will write, nor should you try to do so. Don’t be pushy, don’t call the journalist to see whether he/she will cover your press release or not. This might actually be counter-productive in terms of relationship building. It is not even always his/her own decision but well the editor-in-chief’s. If you want your messages to be published and treated exactly as you wish in the newspaper, no problem…just pay for; it’s called advertisement, not PR then.
With these key considerations in mind, it’s wise to consider that if you haven’t got anything to say, you’re better off not communicating through traditional PR (earned media). You can still use owned, shared and paid media. Try to carefully select your communication moments and only come out to the press when it’s worth the effort. Your reputation and credibility are at stake.
Keep in mind that none of the above rules of thumb offer you a 100% guarantee of getting actual press attention. You should therefore manage expectations in terms of coverage, as you’re never in control of the outcome.
The media attention span is in a constant wave adapting to the current situation. Today’s news is tomorrow’s history and breaking news of the day is often a disrupting factor in getting journalists’ attention. Follow the news and monitor current events to determine the best timing of your own publication. Companies must adapt to the laws of media, not the other way around. Only when you play the game by the rules, you’ll get a fair chance at winning.