Distributing a media release has been an industry standard for dispersing big news since the dawn of time. Exciting new research findings, product launches, new technologies, and events are all viable topics for media releases, right?
Considering how the digital era has completely changed how the communications industry works, the role of the media release is now hotly debated. The good old-fashioned press release made sense in ‘ancient’ times, but now people, including the media, want information that’s clear and concise – and most importantly, easy to access.
So does that mean death for the media release? While we happen to know a few people who do want to say RIP, we know that sometimes it is the right tool and in some cases, a legal obligation.
As trusted consultants, it’s incumbent on us to help our clients understand when a media release is a fit and when it’s not. Making this decision considers a number of media trends. Outlets are operating on multiple different channels and delivering stories to their audience through broadcast, print, digital and social content. The fake news epidemic has fostered distrust in even the most loyal news followers. Blogging and citizen journalism have grown exponentially.
When a client approaches us with big news, our goal is to reach the right media at the right time, and to deliver our message in the most appropriate way. In some cases, a media release is the perfect fit. In others, it may not be the best option.
Here are some of the things we keep in mind to make these decisions – also things we debate internally daily.
Is it the right tool, and are you using the tool right?
It’s important to look at your goals to determine if the media release is the right tool. If you’re looking for specific media coverage or brand exposure then yes it may be. But make sure you use it right. All too often, media releases are written in way that appeals to the company. “We have to say this because it’s completely in line with our strategic vision and we think it’s a great part of the story!”
While the excitement is real and the intentions are good – this type of media release may not get an A+ reaction from media. Why? Because they’re typically long and try to tell every single detail, prompting the time-pressed journalist to say no thanks.
It’s our job to help our clients by researching publications and journalists and what they really write about, making sure our clients’ “news” is indeed newsworthy.
While no one can predict the future, timing the distribution of your media release is critical. At best, it aligns our clients with current events. At worst, it can come across as inconsiderate.
Sometimes, a particular event will completely take over the news cycle and make it hard to get any story noticed that day, or week, regardless of the content of your story. Sensitivity and awareness of current events will play a big role in how your story is read by the public.
Send to the right outlet
Every city has a unique media market, and certain stories will be more successful than others in each market. Smaller markets typically have fewer outlets, lean newsrooms and minimal staff. Many newsrooms rely on larger network channels to share news across broader spectrums, meaning that getting an individual reporter to pick up a smaller story is less likely.
It’s important that we match the news and the target audience to the right outlets. In many cases, local coverage instead of top-tier national news is the right fit and has a greater impact.
Know that there’s no guarantee the story will get picked up
Goal-setting is an important part of media relations tactics, and plays a big role in how select targets in media.
When we outline targets, we’re helping clients define their “dream coverage” while identifying outlets that will reach the right audience and make a lasting impression. While we do our best to match the story with the outlet and make sure the timing is ideal, journalists won’t always bite at what’s on offer.
Understanding that a well-delivered story won’t always guarantee coverage is an underlying fact to each media relations mandate.
While it can be tempting to attach a PDF to an email and hit “send” to our targeted journalist, it’s important to ask if your pitch could be better supported by visuals, videos, infographics or links. This is when a digital press release is a great alternative, acting like a mini-microsite for hurried journalists looking for more information.
Be open to other options
Media releases are a tried-and-true industry standard for releasing important news, but it’s not the only option. Social media campaigns, influencer partnerships, and advertorial content are rapidly becoming industry standards.
As consultants, we guide our clients through the overlap between broadcast, print, and digital media, and leverage it according to what kind of coverage our clients are aiming for.
Feel free to get in touch with any of our media relations experts in our NATIONAL network.
Written by Maddie Alvarez
Former Senior Consultant, NATIONAL Public Relations