Press Releases and Journalism

Week 4: Careful, Press Release Strategies Can Do More Harm Than Good

This article is part of a 12-week course designed for entrepreneurs who are about to go through a product launch. The course goes through creating a content and social media strategy aimed at predicting and increasing product launch success. If you haven’t already, we recommend starting from the first week and advancing forwards.

This week we’re covering press releases and journalism. But we’re doing things a little bit differently. Many companies leave their PR until the very end of their product launch, then wonder why it had such a small effect on their overall marketing campaign. But we have a specific reason for starting it so early, and that reason is networking and relationships.

The two main things to consider when writing press releases for journalists are the way you write your article, and the way you network with journalists. Seems simple right? I’m sure that by now you wouldn’t be surprised to know that many companies who are starting out get both of these things wrong.

Creating Lasting Relationships

The reason we’re covering this topic in week four and not week eight is because it takes time to build strong, long-lasting relationships. This is the first mistake that many entrepreneurs make. Many entrepreneurs and small companies try to get something out of nothing… And that never turns out well.

Whether you have an existing network of journalists, or you don’t know anyone in the industry yet, there are steps you should take before contacting them. You need to do your research…

If you’re selling a tech gadget, then talking to a journalist who only writes about makeup would be a waste of time. And not only that, but you would probably end up annoying him or her.

As with everything in marketing, you need to find your audience. And then you need to narrow it down. Then narrow down again.

Find the journalist who writes about tech, but then narrow down to the journalist who writes about your specific type of tech, and has a track record of doing so. This is beneficial in a few ways… First, they are interested in writing about such products… Second, they have an audience who will be interested in hearing about the product.

Let’s say you have no network of journalists. Where do you start? The best and most effective way of starting is by getting introduced through people you already know. After you research which journalists are in your field, and which ones you want to connect to, look them up on LinkedIn. Chances are that you know someone who is connected to them, and they are a second degree connection. Message that person (hopefully you are on good terms with them and have provided them with value in the past), and ask to get introduced to the journalist.

After getting introduced, don’t ask for anything from the journalist. They already expect this. Instead, be different. Do research about them, find out their interests, hobbies, etc. Take them out to lunch with no strings attached. Build rapport and build a relationship.

Most people will never go out of their way to do something like this. And even though they might know what you’re doing, they’re going to appreciate it. If you provide them with real benefits in their life, then they will have no problem with writing a great article about your product… And not only that, but they will have no problem with introducing you to other journalists as well.

But once you get the article written, the game isn’t over. This is a real human being, and you didn’t get to know them just to ‘game’ them. Continue the relationship, don’t just disregard them. This person is now a part of your life, and can continue providing you with benefits just like you can continue providing them with benefits.

Press Releases: Don’t Waste People’s Time

So it’s time for you to write your press release for your company and product. What are most companies going to do? They’re going to try to “stand out” from the crowd by writing a press release that is funny, witty, cute, etc…

This is a mistake. There is no better way to waste a journalist’s time than to not get to the point as fast as possible. You are not the only email in their inbox, you are one among hundreds (especially if they are a well known journalist). Wasting their time is a guaranteed way to NOT get your product published.

Here’s a good rule of thumb when writing your press release… The product’s name and what it does should be understood in the first sentence. Journalists love this because they value their time, and now they can see that you value their time as well.

Now when it comes to the press release, you better give it all you have when it comes to showing how your product is innovative, disruptive, and creative. Why should they care? Ask yourself that, then start writing about it.

Does it change anything about the world? Or is it just another piece of plastic that takes up space? You have to find this out, and it might take some deep searching to do so (although we’ve already gone over this part in the previous weeks)… But when you do find out why your product is different and why it matters, you will be able to construct a value proposition that very few other companies take the time to do. This is your golden ticket.

Utilize this time right now. There is a reason why we are forming press releases so early on in the course.

Perhaps the most important part about PR and journalism is that using half-assed attempts can create more harm than good. Really spend the time to build and nurture a relationship with the journalists you want to work with. And spend the time to create a powerful press release which will reside on a solid foundation of benefits, value, and features which we took the time to figure out beforehand.

We are here to build solid relationships that will not only benefit us during the product launch, but will benefit future ones as well because that is what a solid content strategy is all about… Looking towards the future.

The following is a quote from Proprtips.com, which I believe sums up the relationship between businesses and journalists nicely:

I only want two kinds of email: those from people I know, and those from people who have taken the time to find out what I’m interested in and composed a note meant to appeal to that (I love those emails; indeed, that’s why my email address is public).

Here’s to your success,
Richard Akhmerov

P.S. Start forming those relationships right now. Even if you haven’t done the previous steps, you don’t need to have your USP or benefits laid out in order to make a friend in the PR industry. The more time you invest, the more you’ll be able to get out. However, make sure to complete the previous steps before you attempt to write your press release.

Posted in Product Launch Series.