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PR: More than a Press Release

Even though it seems very straight forward, Public Relations can be a tricky thing. There is a distinct difference between what a business or organization thinks is news and what the media finds interesting or newsworthy. On the surface, a client seeking favorable publicity for their business with staff additions or promotions, a business move, or an award or achievement can appear to be a simple thing. The tricky part comes when the client is excited about their changes, and sees it as very newsworthy. But unfortunately, most media look at that kind of information as ho-hum, run of the mill, what else do you have?

As a marketing firm, our job is to educate the business or organization about what kind of media coverage they can realistically expect from that type of story submission, and what real value the press release has. We have worked with media long enough to know how much of the press release they will likely publish, and how much will be edited out. Most times, the press release is trimmed down to the bare minimum of facts for publication, and all the interesting additional information about the company ends up on the editing floor.

That is not to say that information is wasted. Not in the least. The real value of most press releases lies in the fact that the media are now aware of the business and what it has to offer. After all, someone did have to actually read that entire press release to know where to edit. In the future, if that someone is doing a feature story on that particular business’ or organizations’ industry, they are likely to remember the press release that crossed their desk, and may decide to contact them for a quote or additional information.

Another benefit of working with professionals on your press releases is that we know the format and language media prefer. We know how to get to the point immediately in a press release (which the media favor) as opposed to writing a glowing review of how the business got started, a historic rundown, and/or a long listing of products and services. We know that just won’t fly, and we must gently break the news to our clients. To do otherwise hurts our own credibility with media, resulting in any release sent to them on behalf of a client being mostly ignored.

There are also those occasions when the media comes calling, and you wish they wouldn’t! The biggest challenge with publicity is when a crisis arises, and the media contact your organization before you have an opportunity to get in front of the story. This can come in various shapes and sizes. For example, a toxic spill, a scandal among leadership, an employee discovered embezzling, or any number of unthinkable things. There is no end to the possible PR nightmares a business could encounter.

Every business has the potential for damaging public problems, making a solid public relations plan a must in today’s fast paced, no holds barred media world.

Here are a few basic PR tips to consider:

  1. Every press release or statement should get to the point immediately. This is especially true for the typical business announcements such as a new hire, name change, or award. You can add fluff further down in the release, but the media has very low tolerance for wading through what they deem as unnecessary text.
  2. Don’t ask your marketing person or professional agency to add meaningless text to the release. If you need to provide context do so, but don’t give voluminous narrative on how great your business or organization is.
  3. In a crisis, quickly get your public relations plan together. Better still, have a plan in place for any crisis your company or organization might encounter. The plan should include who will respond to media, what will the response be, and in what time frame will the organization respond? It’s never a good idea to respond with “no comment” A better response is “we are investigating this, and will get back to you by this specific time.” And then do it.
  4. In a crisis, the truth is probably your best defense. Denying and avoiding will only last so long, and then ultimately, the story will come out, and the cover up always looks worse than the initial incident. By coming clean early in the game, you have the opportunity to frame the story the way you want to. Waiting only puts you perennially on the defense.

A solid public relations plan can aid in growing and gaining credibility for your organization. Editorial coverage, (assuming it is positive) can cement your brand in your customer’s mind. Handling a crisis in a responsible proactive way, can, in fact,

further endear your brand to your customers. A good public relations plan is just one more tool in the arsenal of tactics to promote the success of your business or organization.