Published on December 21, 2015
Today’s most successful PR campaigns begin with communications teams who have adopted the mentality of thinking like a journalist. Before even considering sending a pitch over to their favorite reporter, they’ve already strapped on their newsroom-caps and have evaluated whether or not Pitch A is a story with depth, nuance, and appeal.
Would an editor accept a story that outlines the benefits of the running sock your athletic brand just released? If they write for Runner’s World maybe, but think about it. What’s more likely to get picked up? A pitch about your brand’s new running sock or a story about the best types of running socks (including yours) for different types of weather given that the rainy season is on its way? Exactly.
This, my friends, is why writing an old-school press release focused only on you is pretty much like snapping a selfie. It’s a one-way view, a solo dance party, the show Party of Five but without four other people. Here’s why they’re alike, and why you should instead focus on creating stories that puts your brand within the greater context of your industry as a whole.
1. They are both all about you.
Taking that selfie on the day you finish your master’s program is one thing. It’s a notable accomplishment that you’ve worked hard for, and your network of friends on Facebook would assumably enjoy the opportunity to congratulate you and hear about what you’ve been up to. The PR equivalent? Getting a new office space or hiring Mark Zuckerberg’s child as your new director of communications. The news alone is likely enough to land you some great press without further fluffing. But let’s be real. Most of the time, companies have to spin everyday offerings into newsworthy pitches. For these instances, writing a press release that’s all about you is counterproductive. Journalists aren’t interested in hearing about you and you alone. They’re looking for well-rounded stories that speak to what’s happening in your industry as a whole.
2. Too many filters can decrease the quality.
What you see is not always what you get. Over-editing, whether with Instagram photo filters or by having too many people edit a release, can decrease authenticity and quality. Selfies can start to resemble early ‘90s CD covers when over-filtered and press releases can come across as fabricated when too many cooks in the kitchen layer in shout-outs about how great your brand is in every other paragraph. Beware of both instances.
3. Both are open to interpretation.
Once you put them out there, both selfies and press releases are open to interpretation and you can’t always control what happens next. One funny comment and your duck face could turn into the talk of the town (or at least the talk of your network). Similarly, you can describe your new app as “the next big thing in automated food preservation management” throughout your press release in bolded text but nothing’s going to stop a journalist from calling it “Uber for Ziploc” if they feel so inclined. How the story is spun, whether in regards to your face or your brand, is out of your control. The best thing you can do in the latter instance is to be real and not overdress your messaging.
4. Commoditization has killed the wow factor.
Those first few selfies in the history of selfies may have been mind-blowing, but now they’re as common as slices of American cheese. Similarly, thousands of press releases hit the world every day–everyone can create them, they’re easy to push out with a little bit of funds, and it’s a highly saturated space. The best thing you can do to stand out is to turn your press releases into multimedia content packages equipped with high-res’ images reporters can publish, expert quotes from a range of companies (not just your own), and hopefully videos too. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
5. They may get reposted, but not by who you want.
The key publications you’re after are not the ones who will repost your press release. Sure, it’s great to see when your release has been picked up or reposted verbatim (it means you’ve written it well and that’s something to be proud of). But, these won’t be the publications you or your company’s CEO will squeal over. With a selfie–well you get the picture.
The morale of the story? If you’re spending the time on press releases, make them multi-faceted and don’t focus them on yourself. Give insight into your industry’s past and demonstrate what you believe will come in the future. Zoom out, show more than those lovable cheeks of yours, and see what happens next time you share a more real, compelling group shot.