Releases aren’t worth the paper…

The news release or ‘press release’ – misnamed because tv, radio and the Internet are not ‘press’ – is a common tool used by public relations people to prompt media into covering their clients’ stories. But it is a poorly-used tool that fell out of favour quite a few years ago.

A news release still can be effective, but the chances of an average release finding its way through reporters, editors and other screeners and into print or broadcast news are extremely remote. In most cases, news releases are thrown, unread, into the garbage. There are many more effective ways of interesting the news media in your story such as calling journalists, staging events, enlisting supporters with built-in credibility, buying advertisements, employing YouTube and other social media and so on. News releases can be used but should be viewed as just one more tool in the kit to be tried with low expectations for success.

Look at the releases written by government PR people to get examples of terribly-crafted text. You won’t find out much about the environment, taxation, infrastructure improvements, military affairs, education, health or anything else in the public interest by reading these releases. You will find the name of the minister and, perhaps, of senior bureaucrats in the department; they are in the first paragraph by unwritten law. You will find out how marvelous the current minister thinks he or she is. Apart from that, you will find turgid, information-deprived language about the latest way the government is planning to spend your hard-earned tax dollars buried in paragraph six.  Perhaps the biggest waste of your money is in paying the people who write government news releases.

Away from government, typical releases miss the key points or ‘angles’ of the stories. They are general and usually incredibly boring. No wonder editors and reporters don’t bother reading these things. The return on investment ranks with buying stock in coal mines.

A well-written, concise news release may get attention. It is best to follow the sending of such a release with a phone call or one line email to the editor and/or reporter to whom the release was sent. Or you can spend a small fortune to place your release with a news distribution, targeting, monitoring and marketing service like Canada Newswire. Don’t rely on this too, though, because your chances of having your release used are likely less than 5 per cent.