This is the final of four posts on how to write a press release. Each post will focus on a different aspect of press release writing. This post focuses on follow-up.
Once you’ve written the release and sent it to the appropriate outlets, you’re done, right?
You need to follow who did and didn’t pick up the release and why. If it’s a simple promotion or hiring of anything but a top executive at a large company, the release might not see the light of day in all but media that run all announcements and maybe some local press. Though your client might think it’s important, in today’s battle for eyeballs (and for space, particularly in print), it’s just not that important to most of the audience.
Other times, you might have what you believe to be a good release, with good information for the media and for its audience, but the timing could be wrong. Who knows how many releases were ignored following 9-11? I know of a bank that had a huge press event planned – much more involved than a simple release – the day the Challenger blew up. No one showed up for the event.
If using one of the wire services to post releases, you get whichever outlets might pick it up. If sending out targeted releases, contact some of the top targets:
- Was the release received? It may have just gotten buried in a crush of e-mails or gotten tied up in a spam filter.
- Who is the correct contact person (it may have changed)?
- What types of releases are the editors and reporters interested in?
- Are there upcoming features where the release information may be useful (review the editorial calendar for potential recommendations)?
But undertake care with such follow-ups. If you’re sending a lot of releases on plenty of mundane items, even a good, information-packed release is likely to be ignored. Also, editors/reporters are busier than ever as print and online publications cut staff. They won’t respond well to too many follow-ups or follow-ups about mundane items. So you might want to turn any overlooked release on their part into an opportunity to introduce yourself and ask the contact what types of releases/information for which they might be looking. You might still send other releases (you can don’t want to overly cull a distribution list), but this will give you an idea when a specific release should get attention from the editor/reporter and a follow-up e-mail or phone call is warranted.
What are your thoughts?
Phil Britt is a 30-year writing veteran and has operated his own firm, S&P Enterprises, Inc.,([email protected]) for the last 17 years, with articles appearing in many national publications, primarily in financial services and technology. He has worked with companies and PR firms from around the country, some as a journalist, and others as a subcontractor (never working on the same item “from both sides of the desk.”).
“But undertake care with such follow-ups. If you’re sending a lot of releases on plenty of mundane items, even a good, information-packed release is likely to be ignored. Also, editors/reporters are busier than ever as print and online publications cut staff. They won’t respond well to too many follow-ups or follow-ups about mundane items.”
Hallelujah and Praise the Lord, yes! From a past life, where I worked with a lot of reporters, and generally the same universe on a regular basis, I can tell you that the most blood-boiling call a reporter can get is “Hey, this is X, did you get that release I sent?” If you’re going to followup, then have something better in your arsenal than, “Did you get it?” Have an actual, honest-to-goodness pitch – why this is important, why it’s important to the reporter (yes, that’s sometimes different), and a good angle. All in about ten seconds of so, because that’s your window.
Here’s one strategy that has worked for me in the past. Do the release, by all means, but also try to find a couple of different angles (perhaps even a larger angle) and pitch them to specific reporters.
Can I suggest a Part Five of this series? “Managing Client Expectations with press releases.” You’d be surprised how many clients expect to see their name in the papers just because you sent the release.
Part 5 would be at Deb’s disgression. I tried to allude to managing expectations in this and a couple of the other posts. Too many corporate execs think what they have to say/report is important when, to be real blunt, it isn’t. But you can’t win all of those fights, so pick your battles (as I seem to tell my teens daily).
Here and with a previous post in this series, you mentioned pitching, which I see as a little different than a release, per se. Often a pitch is geared to something specific on the editorial calendar or to place an article (case study, thought leadership, etc.) in the publication that a PR firm writes — I don’t write too many pitches, but I’ve done a lot of the work on the articles once they’ve been successfully pitched. The important element in getting these pitches approved is that they’re written in a journalistic style, not in heavy marketing language.
Good read about press releases. I think it’s common for people to assume that they can sit back and relax after sending out press releases, but sometimes follow up is the key to getting what you want.