Three free tips: Making your mark with effective press releases

media scrum
The media scrum: You'll rarely want or need to be caught in this situation in seeking publicity for your business.

We receive dozens of self-serving news releases every day. Most land straight in the “delete” file, but a few find their way into our weekly regional publication eletters and some even make it further, to prominence in regional or national publications.

At times, however, I throw my hands up in exasperation, when another release comes from a public relations agency or contractor that breaks the fundamental rules. Instead of simply trashing the release, I let the senders know why they won’t get anywhere (unless they have a talk with our advertising department and spend some cash on sponsored posts — more on that later).

Boiling things down, here are three essentials to increase your news release’s chance of being published. Note there are no guarantees: Publishers certainly don’t need to use your releases, even if you follow all the rules. These concepts simply increase the probability they will be published.

Rule 1. ?Your announcement should have significantly greater value/relevance to the community you are reaching than your own business.

In other words, it should be newsworthy to people outside of your organization and its circle of suppliers and friends. The fact you’ve promoted some staffers to ?be vice-presidents means nothing, outside of your circle. If you want to brag about completing a project, my reaction is: “Who cares” — the work is done and the story is over (at least for potential suppliers, subcontractors and others who might hope to win some work you.) If you make a modest contribution to a charity, fine, but does it really make a difference or are you cynically promoting your contribution to promote yourself rather than the worthy cause?

The converse story could be: A major start, where you would welcome inquiries from subs, suppliers and others who might want to do business with you; the merger or acquisition of a major competitor; which changes the business landscape, or a truly significant good deed that represents real sacrifice or commitment.

You’ll notice the observations here are subjective. If the story is borderline, it is okay to put out the news release; just don’t expect anyone to jump over hoops to publish it.

Rule 2: Make it easy for the publisher to use the content. Provide well-written text, images (even videos), essential facts and meaningful direct quotes for attribution (avoiding crappy platitudes and superficial statements.)

This is a rather obvious assertion, but you would be surprised how many news releases fail to describe a new project’s dollar value (usually public information, from building permit filings, will do), or are jumbled masses puffy text and clich?s without any meaningful content. I do not care if a project is a “luxury” building (to me, that means, overpriced). I do care about the subs and suppliers working on the job, without too much gushing. Please provide the facts.

Conversely, please don’t phone or expect your story to be worthy of a full-scale interview or press conference, unless it really matters. And “really matters” should be related to the conditions outlined in Rule 1 above. You won’t have many of these situations in your life, so the assumption should be that it isn’t that important.

Rule 3: Sometimes “Pay to Play” makes sense. Just understand the value proposition and its limitations.

We have a few clients who advertise with us and submit their news releases as well. Generally, I’ll give these announcements priority over others, and work with the clients to ensure their announcements are effective and properly communicated.

Is this “selling our soul” or journalistic integrity? I think not. After all, we are a business too, and our most valuable service — publicity — generally is without charge. So it is reasonable to accommodate our paying clients fairly.

However, outside of clear advertising features/sponsorships, it is wrong to expect a quid-pro-quo with the media, and suggestions you will either advertise or suspend your advertising in exchange for positive (or avoiding negative) publicity will not get you far. But if you combine the three rules, you’ll almost certainly have a much better chance of scoring media and community recognition.

Conclusion: If you would like to implement Rule 3, phone me at (888) 627-8717 ext 224 or email If you wish publicity under Rules 1 or 2, go ahead and send your news releases, but you should know not to phone!

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