PR for small business

Practical PR: Why Press Releases Suck

blog 7.10I’m starting a new series today on the blog called Practical PR with a goal of giving you some actionable ideas for promoting you and your business.

I thought I’d start off with talking about one of my least favorite PR tools, the press release and why press releases suck. (At least in my not so humble opinion.)

My relationship with the press release started in 1996 when I was in college taking PR. I learned all the ins and outs of everything press release related. Since then I’ve probably written and sent out thousands of them, if not tens of thousands.

Now, think back to 1996. Email was barely a thing and blogging was just a glimmer amongst a small community on the Internet. Social networking wasn’t even born yet and Mark Zuckerberg was only 12 years old.

Back then, press releases made sense as a structured way to package and share news about your company. Fast forward 18 years later and press releases quite frankly are pretty retro. Sort of like the Macarena, the #1 song of 1996.

[Tweet “What press releases and the Macarena have in common. So retro.”]

The Time and Place for Press Releases

Working with corporate clients, press releases are a standard tactic, and in many cases are required for stock market disclosure or things that have zilch to do with PR.

Many times, when people think about PR, a press release is one thing they are familiar with, so they jump to that as the way to “get their news” out there. But as a coach, consultant, or author, you aren’t bound by the rules of the SEC and you can tell your story using a much more social approach and skipping the press release.

Not convinced? Think you can just write your press release, pay a service to distribute and you’ll be golden?

Not so fast.

Press releases do not make the media magically call you. Spending $700 to have your story distributed by a big name service does not automatically beget coverage. And real bonafide coverage is not having the press release reposted to the Wall Street Journal. Oh look you, talking about you. Not so credible is it?

The idea of publicity in the first place is to get other people to share your story and thereby boost your cred in the process. It’s called third party credibility, which you don’t simply get by your press release being published verbatim on some random website.

What Really Boosts Your Cred

The good news is that there are so many ways to share your news or story, that you can pick the most appropriate way to get it out there.  For the love of the PR gods, please just don’t do a press release because someone tells you that you “should”.  Shoulds are for suckers.

Here’s just a few ideas:

  • Blog about your story or news
  • Share via social media
  • Pitch reporters directly with your story
  • Act as an expert source
  • Create video content
  • Write a guest post about it on a high profile site

Creating “buzz” and getting attention for your story can be done in many different ways. The key is tapping into the avenues that are most appropriate. A highly visual story may be ideal for video or photos, while thoughts on an industry trend may make for the perfect guest post.

Try not to fall into the trap of getting so stuck on your story that you lose sight of the fact that the story should serve to educate, entertain or inform. Focusing on “hey, here’s my new business” or “my new product is here” will not get you very far, the real story is how that fills a need or fits into a bigger industry trend.

Well done publicity, is not a one and done project. It takes time, pressure and lots of patience. But the rewards can be immense when you start having customers coming to you because they read about you in your local paper or or when you are invited to speak because of your last guest post.

As my mom always said, good things come to those who wait. The real question is, can you be patient enough?

What has your experience with press releases been? Do you have a press release #fail you can share. Comment below. 

[Tweet “Skip the press release. Tell your story socially. New blog post via @magspatterson.”]

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Stop Being Out Shined by People Who Suck.

I’m starting a free three class series on July 23rd at 1:00 p.m. Totally free, no sales pitch – just straight up learning.  We’ll be talking about publicity basics, why your arch nemesis is getting attention and you aren’t and much more.