Why A Press Release Shouldn’t Be Sent To The Media
A press release, is a press release is a press release.
So goes the mantra. You write a press release, you send it to your target media, and they either do or don’t run with the story. And then you start rolling that rock back up the hill to start all over again.
They’re not the fun part of PR. They’re not the big ideas, the crazy stunts, the smart events, well-thought-out features, wicked press kits. They’re perfunctory, they need writing, proofing, signing off, selling-in and sending. Once your boxes are ticked – it’s done.
At least that’s the general view. And it is a view which is damaging to clients.
This is where someone with a journalists brain will always, always get better results than someone who hasn’t spent that time at the coal face.
A journalist always wants to make a story bigger, better, the best it can be. And that means looking at the current mood, the media landscape. Looking to what are the trends and what people are just downright sick of hearing about.
I wrote a press release which had a client lauded in Parliament and subsequently – combined with their own incredible hard work – helped to win them a string of awards. And here’s the kicker – I never even released it to the press.
Let me give an example.
My client, Stewardson Developments, are a property company based in the west midlands. They own a swathe of residential and commercial properties.
They wanted to put out a news release that they were offering their residents solar panels on their properties. It worked for Stewardsons because they would claim a feed in tarrif from the Government which would eventually cover the cost of the installation, and give a small yield on top.
It worked for the residents because it gave them free electricity. And it worked for the environment because it was a green initiative.
It was a nice story. Or it would have been at any other time. As it was, when this story came along, the papers had reached saturation point with stories about solar panels. The was no interest in anything to do with them.
The government were changing the rules on them and everyone was sick of hearing about them. The middle markets screamed about the end of civilisation when someone put them on a thatched cottage, the tabloids wrote about ones fitted the wrong way round, or were hidden in the shade, or looked like lady bumps. You get the picture.
Local papers had been stuffed full of neighbour disputes etc… Etc…
I remember calling up one journo about something unrelated and he told me in no uncertain terms : ” john, pitch me anything you want, as long as its nothing to do with solar panels. Everyone is sick of hearing about them.”
So what was I to do? I had this nice story. A genuine nice story about a landlord who wanted to give back to his tenants and do a bit for the environment.
I wrote the press release. But I said to the client, “I don’t think we should give this to he papers.”
“What are we going to do with it then?” he asked, rightfully.
“Let’s give it to your MP,” I said.
To me it made perfect sense as a way to make the story bigger. He was a Tory MP, it was a Tory initiative. How could he not be happy.
I sent it to James Morris, MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, and the next day I had an email from his office, with a quote from Mr Morris. It read:
“It is fantastic that a local company is leading the way in making the benefits of solar power available to their tenants, having seen how much the company saved from having panels on their own offices.
“Support from Government means that homeowners and landlords get paid for the electricity that their solar panels generate whilst tenants benefit from cheaper electricity bills.
“I will be raising this is Parliament as a fantastic example of local landlords taking innovative action to help their tenants and the environment.”
And he did.
And this became a new story, which made in the local papers – but better than any story it gave us massive credibility when it came to entering into awards – all of which Stewardsons won.
Off the back of the Parliament mention, the awards and some incredible hard work by themselves Stewardsons recently secured a large cash injection from their bank, which was the overall objective of their PR.
The point, I suppose, is that if you’re going to work with the media, you need to understand the media.
As well as understanding when to act, it’s more important – and more difficult – to know when not to act.
Read more about Stewardsons and other jwcpr campaigns in our Public Relations Case Studies area.
And for more info on the kind of unique creative approach we like to take, please read our blog on Influencing the Influencers.