Journalists Find Some News Releases Useful

75 percent of journalists find well-targeted news releases with high-quality content useful, according to a new survey of 750 journalists conducted by Oriella PR Network, an alliance of 15 PR agencies around the world.

Surveys like this drive me crazy. Out of all the press releases journalists receive, they find the well-written, relevant ones most useful. Really? Do they want to receive news releases? Do they find news releases the best source of information for finding story ideas? No and no.

While the news release isn’t going away anytime soon, I can’t believe how many people still think it’s an effective form of communication (especially if you’re trying to interest a journalist in writing about you). Take a break from this blog post and head over to one of the news wire services to read today’s headlines. Let me know when you find a release you’d like to write about if you were a journalist.

What’s the Alternative?

You know what works better than a press release? Try having a real conversation with a journalist – when you’re not under the gun trying to score coverage for a client. Learn what they write about and when to contact them. Learn what they hate about PR people. Learn how their organization works.

Don’t rely on ‘pitch tips’ in media databases, and don’t assume you know what a journalist covers because you read one story they wrote.

If you’re relying on news releases for publicity coverage, you’re NEVER going to generate any level of meaningful coverage. Never. That’s not where the great stories come from.

Here are some other tips I’ve found useful:

  • Blog – your blog is your own media outlet. Share everything you can think of about your industry, passion, company, products and services. Don’t make it too commercial, or nobody will care. On the other hand, you’ll be surprised by how many people actually care about the widgets you make. Journalists read your content when they’re looking for sources too.
  • Meet – seek out journalists at conferences and events. Attend networking events in your area that journalists are known to attend (a local press club or media freelance network for example). Don’t attend to pitch them a story, attend to meet them.  Just be yourself. Try not to act like the stereotypical PR person. If you don’t know what I mean, you’re probably acting like one.
  • Listen – I’ve said it time and time again, but follow and engage with journalists through Twitter and other social media. You can learn so much about their interests and preferences by getting involved in the conversation. Don’t be a stalker. Listen and learn. If you pay attention, you’ll come across more opportunities than you can imagine.
  • NO – don’t send out news releases that suck. This might not sound like advice on how to increase your coverage, but it is. If you send crap to journalists, they remember. When you have something newsworthy to share, they wont’ see it (because you’re on a PR spammer list or they’ve marked you as a person to ignore). If you are asked to write a news release that is missing ‘news’, or chock full of gobbledygook, figure out a different angle or don’t send it.
  • Target – whether you’re pitching a story on the phone, via Twitter, at a cocktail party or via a press release, make sure you’ve got the right outlet and contact. Why waste your time pitching an outlet that’s never going to cover your news? The Wall Street Journal doesn’t care that you launched the latest version of your accounting software or that you celebrated you’ve been in business now for 10 years.

As a closing thought, think objectively about survey data. Use your noggin. While the fact 75 percent of journalists find news releases valuable sounds great, that doesn’t mean 75 percent of journalists want to read your release.

Then again, if it’s relevant to what they cover and it’s well-written, maybe they do.

What percentage of your time is spent writing and pitching press releases? How often does that result in meaningful publicity? What has worked better for you?

(Image Credit: Question Mark and Arrow by laurakgibbs)

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

8 Comments

  1. Great stuff, Jeremy. You make some excellent points here. Several years ago, I worked at a PR firm and I always shuddered when I was forced to write a press release for something that wasn’t at all newsworthy. You’re right – it certainly hurts your credibility down the line when you actually DO have something worthwhile to pitch.

    I do think that press releases can have value depending on the organization and topic. It’s just important to use them only when you have something newsworthy to say. With newsrooms cutting reporters right and left, I think reporters do appreciate when they get a well-written, newsworthy release. The job as a PR pro is to make journalists’ jobs easier. And sometimes, a press release is the best way to get the information into journalists’ hands.

    • Thanks for the comment. I just want PR pros (especially some of those just starting out) to realize there are other options beyond the press release. A 140-character DM or one-sentence email can be more effective than a 400-word press release sent over the wire.

  2. Jeremy – I do agree that some of the undifferentiated, “whiter, brighter toothpaste” types of releases are junk (things like “Company X launches revolutionary new product Y that will change the way people Z.”). These obviously aren’t the type of targeted, well-written and relevant releases that journalists rely on (and I believe they do still rely on news releases, whether they readily admit that it or not).

    But I need to disagree with you to some extent. A news release can be an effective form of communication for some organizations, especially when it comes to local media. We see it all the time with readMedia clients. Many of them are former journalists who are now in PR roles. So they know how to write well and have good news judgment. A lot of them are issuing press releases that are print-ready content — written as stand-alone news stories. They are announcing relevant, interesting local or statewide news, like a state environmental report on wildfires or a warning about a Medicare scam aimed at senior citizens.

    Newsrooms have been gutted and, particularly at the local level, journalists rely on press releases like those above to help them fill their ever-increasing news hole. It is an effective way of gaining meaningful coverage for certain organizations with certain types of news. We see our clients’ stories getting picked up all the time. I would bet that those 75 percent of journalists who want to receive releases are not the folks at the New York Times or Wall Street Journal or Good Morning America, but are the local journalists at metro dailies, regional papers and local TV news stations who are always looking for relevant, interesting local content. And for many organizations, local news coverage is the most valuable kind they can get, since that’s where their audience is.

    Of course, it’s important to build relationships with journalists and make sure you’re correctly targeting your news. And if you’re pitching an undifferentiated national “trend” story or a product launch, then I agree that a press release may be less effective than the other methods that you list in your post.

    But the idea that press releases never generate meaningful news coverage just doesn’t hold water with me.

    @amymengel
    readMedia

    • Good follow up points. If it’s a topic for mass consumption, and outlets will run it regardless of whether or not it appears in dozens or hundreds of other outlets, press releases can be effective. As could emails, blog posts or tweets.

      I went a little overboard with my use of the word ‘never’ – I should have clarified that a press release would ‘rarely’ generate meaningful coverage in outlets like The New York Times.

  3. This post ignores some other important attributes of the press release, namely that it is a great tool for SEO, education of customers and indirect selling. I do agree with Jeremy’s response above that a press release sent over the wire without a good follow-up strategy can be a waste of time and resources. When I send out a press release to a journalist, it’s always accompanied with a pitch email which is itself often followed up by a phone call.

    I’m not so sure how practical it is to get to know journalists in order to pitch stories. Sometimes journalists are too busy to care enough about getting to know me. Sometimes I have stories in locations that are away from my hometown such that I can’t possibly reach out and establish a rapport with journalists in some authentic way. (I think it would be an insult to their intelligence I tried!) I wish I could say that 100% of my stories belong to one specific industry or market, but they don’t. Sometimes I have to put faith in the process.

    And as much as we complain about the process, I don’t see things changing. Twitter is nice and all but I don’t see a lot of (local) reporters I am familiar with on Twitter let alone using it to sleuth for stories; heck it takes more work. I do think Twitter can be an effective guerilla PR tool, and I’ve seen it work well for start-ups looking to make headlines; they spend time researching and tracking a single journalist; this is a time-intensive approach that may yield big results but then again may not.

    Not all PR folks are going to follow the common sense approach you outline above. I guess that’s what separates good PR folks from average ones. Pareto’s Law is alive and well in PR and Journalism.

  4. I agree with a lot of what you said, though context plays a huge part. Bottom line, relationships are key to PR success.

  5. “Try having a real conversation with a journalist…”
    Applicable in any circumstance, in every sitiuation, having face-to-face interaction is deeper and more meaningful than any FB posting, tweet or txt. Well said Jeremy, thank you.

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