Five big myths about PR

Want to get your company featured in your local or national newspaper, or trade press title? You’re not alone and we’re not exaggerating when we say that it’s the very first thing we hear when we sit down to discuss objectives of any given PR campaign.

What’s funny is that we’ve come across some really iffy opinions and (albeit well meaning) advice plastered all over the interweb, so we thought we’d share some of it and hopefully separate the wheat from the chaff.

Myth 1: “It doesn’t matter how you communicate with journalists, they’re just word-regurgitators.”

Did we really just hear that?! Getting to know and then treating journalists well is possibly the first thing you should do to get your press release noticed above the hundreds of others they receive every day. Reaching a busy news room when all hell is breaking loose and then you’re inadvertently demanding attention for what is clearly an attempt to gain favour and attention will land you in the junk folder just as fast as blindly sending a press release will.

Your first job if you want to get your press release about your latest, greatest all-singing, all-dancing widget is connect with the most appropriate person at your newspaper or trade press of choice. Find stories about your competitors or stories similar to what you’re pitching to know who’s covering that sort of content. Find individual writers who specialise in your industry – don’t just email the editor. They won’t respond positively, no matter how nicely you word your email or write your media release.

Myth 2: “I don’t need to know who the journalist is, if the story’s good, they’ll write about me.”

On a related note to the first myth above, nine times out of ten, a journalist will look at even the best written article about the most interesting thing and bin it simply because they don’t know the person who’s sent it to them. We’re not joking. We can see why too; how does the journalist know you’re a legitimate source? Assume therefore that Joe or Joanne Journalist sees you as ‘Pinocchio with a widget’.

It’s for precisely this reason that organically connecting with journalists over time is hugely important. Whether it’s through social networks, networking events in person, or over email, just as you would establish a relationship with anyone, it starts with a simple ‘Like’, a retweet, jumping into a natural conversation, then another conversation, and another. Nothing is forced and if they ignore you, move on. Getting to know a journalist’s needs without selling to them, and getting to know them personally (how they prefer to connect), is time consuming, but worthwhile.

Myth 3: “I don’t need a PR firm, I can do it myself.”

We’re not saying it’s impossible to ‘DIY’ media relations, but chances are, legitimate PR firms (like us!) have well groomed connections at all of the news outlets your template email might otherwise irritate. Companies who specialise in PR (like us) will put together a legitimate strategy and execute it more quickly and effectively than someone who just wants to sell their widget ever could.

Myth 4: “I don’t need a budget – PR is free.”

While there’s the slightest hint of truth in this, PR isn’t ever “free”. If you’re looking for blanket exposure in every major national newspaper (while highly improbable) in our experience it’s about the angle you take rather than your latest widget. Though your latest widget may be the greatest thing ever in your world – to a journalist, it’s just another product they have to write about.

Do the journalist a favour and don’t just write about whatever it is you’re selling. Tell them a story in your email to them, they like that; but get to the point! Remember that your email gets five seconds before a decision is made as to what happens with it (read, respond, or bin it). In two bullet points, say what’s in your press release and save the journalist time. There’s no drivel they have to wade through and if it’s a fit, they won’t care if your widget glows in the dark, they’ll just write about it.

Myth 5: “If I stuff every piece of information in my media release, the journalist has everything they need to know about my story.”

Oh dear. Media releases are the Everest for most journalists. Sometimes weighing in at anything from 300 to more than 1,000 words each, they’re beautifully written pieces of waffle they have to wade through. The ideal situation is that your release gets read and repurposed in the newspaper or trade press website of your choosing. What really happens is that journalists see a huge mountain of text and he or she deletes your email. Sorry, but that’s what happens.

While it might seem that giving all the information up front is honest and forthright, it’s frankly inconsiderate. In the case of the media release with a journalist, skip straight to the good stuff and say it in less than 250 words. Imagine you’re at their desk reading your email about your latest widget, and think deeply about what would make them want to do something for you.

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Nov 2015

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