Turning the worst press release into successful media relationships

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The modest press release is one of the oldest and most effective weapons in the PR arsenal. It’s a simple, concise way to get news onto a journalist’s desk, and with it, we can form long-lasting media relationships.

Yet poor press releases and weak pitches are still amongst the most common misdemeanours of modern PR practitioners.

From exhibition and conference previews to award-win announcements, as PR professionals it is our job to breathe new life into even the dullest and most tiresome of press releases.

But despite our best efforts, sometimes a more run of the mill ‘news’ announcement can be added to the pile of PR in a journalist’s brimming inbox.

So how do we sell in our client’s press releases, when face with less than ground-breaking news? The answer: cultivate strong, positive media relationships.

Like creating a good wine, developing an effective media relationship takes time. But once developed, they can go a long way to engendering consideration, understanding and forgiveness from trade and business journalists.

Hold my beer…

Recently, a journalist hauled me over the coals for sending a bad press release. In fact, I was told the announcement came close to winning the publication’s ‘worst press release of the week’ award. Ouch.

I might have cried myself to sleep that night, if they weren’t so right. It was a lacklustre story with, to quote the journo, ‘Monty Pythonesque’ accompanying images.

So, I rolled up my sleeves and thanked them for their acerbic response …

(It was refreshing to know they at least read the story instead of hurling it into their recycling bin as most probably did.)

…and channelled my inner geezer (coined by colleague and PR guru, Jack.)

I asked the journalist if they could throw us a lifeline on this occasion, only this time, I assured them that our content would be much spicier than the lemon-and-herb of a release we initially sent.

On the basis that any published story should satisfy the need to inform, educate, and entertain, I pitched a feature idea on behalf of the client. This time, we would address big- picture issues with thought-leadership comments, that are truly interesting to the market and beyond, and don’t contain predictable ‘we are customer-friendly’ blandishments.

…Result! We bagged our client a one-page Q/A and more importantly, formed a media relationship (even if on the grounds of satire!)

The main objective for PR professionals is to genuinely become useful to journalists.

Developing productive, conversational relationships is key to help ‘build the brand’ of both the client and the agency and ultimately, it’s the most effective way of getting coverage.

So, my advice? Use your charisma, humour or ‘geezer’ tactics, in support of high-quality, eye-catching PR content and successful media relationships and coverage for your client will follow.

Need help with getting your news, products, and services in the press? Nielsen McAllister can help.

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