Across the pond and along the Thames, Adrian has a rant up on DailyDOOH about the sorry state of press releases he gets all day, every day, from companies looking to get some love and attention in that blog.
He kindly mentions that when he gets press from pressDOOH, it’s actually useful and ready to go.
I am in this very weird position of being someone who develops press material for companies (among a buncha things), but also gets pretty much the same gush of PR material as DailyDOOH, as companies look to get a mention on Sixteen:Nine.
Adrian nicely covers off the formatting and ease of access issues, so I thought I would add to his rant by mentioning the other area – content quality – that plagues a lot of the press stuff that gets sent my way.
1 – Not getting to the point. In newspaper parlance, it’s called burying the lede. If I have to wade through seemingly endless blabber about “leading global provider” and “state of the art” before I finally start to build a picture of why this was sent to me, it’s either going to get ignored or – if your timing is bad and I am cranky – the press you get may not be what was hoped for, at all.
2 – Teeing up useless quotes. I completely ignore quotes that start with “We’re pleased …” or “We’re delighted/excited/thrilled/emptying our bladders …” I also ignore quotes that sound about as natural as something in the mission statement of the Maine Society of Retired Actuaries. Most press release quotes are invented, so there’s no reason why they cannot be natural sounding and enhance a story. Quotes are a great tool to reinforce the context of something, like, “In the testing we’ve done so far, this has improved performance by ….”
3 – Plenty of jargon, no context. You may have noticed a lot of Sixteen:Nine posts have some spin in them that amounts to my expressing why the people reading the thing should care. Software companies are particularly notorious for issuing releases that spew out lists of new bells and whistles and enhancements that mean something to the developers, but to few others. Too few companies issue releases that clearly state how adding this feature will reduce time or costs to do something by “X” or open up the ability to do “Y”.
4 – Lacking in credibility. It’s not a rampant problem, but there are definitely companies out there that send out stuff that either stretches the truth or carefully leaves out important details. If I don’t believe the release, I’ll tend to hit the delete button, or go the opposite way and call the company out. It usually takes very little searching to unearth the truth.
5 – Using filters and gatekeepers. If, as is too often the case, a news release doesn’t properly anticipate follow-up questions, someone should be ready on the other end of the phone or email to answer questions … within the hour of the release. If the only contact person is from a third party public relations firm, I don’t even bother. I don’t want to be handled. I don’t want to be scheduled. And I definitely don’t want to be monitored during a phone interview by a PR person “just sitting in” on the call. I want to be able to send a note to the CEO and get an answer kicked back directly from the person in the know.
6 – Assumptions of an editor. For decades, press releases were purely mechanisms to stimulate awareness and coverage by the mainstream or business press. The internet changed all that. What most people who generate press releases have failed to understand (and this is baffling) is that a lot of people read press releases straight off PR news wires or off the returns of search results. Even when there is a familiar media organization in the header of a “story” it is quite possibly just an automated feed from a PR service. So this notion that editors will “touch” releases and turn them into interesting, highly readable features is mostly wishful thinking.
There are opinion pieces out all the time trying to make the case that the press release is dead. It’s not. Press releases are terrific marketing and communications tools. The problem is that the formula and process that was used 10-15 years ago doesn’t now work, and too few people realize it. Good press releases tell stories that are complete and credible, and get you interested from the first words.