A client recently asked me when a brand should write a traditional press release versus writing an email pitch.
Most PR experts’ philosophy is that the traditional press release is dead, and I tend to agree. In the age of Tweets, Facebook status updates, LinkedIn requests, text messages or a rapid-fire email pitch, a formal press release with a boilerplate, quote from a brand representative and dateline is not typically what gets the attention of editors. In fact, with so many PR people distributing pitches, the desire to have “need to know” information condensed into a pithy email is paramount.
However, there are still occasions when brands should have the full, formal press release in their pocket. These press releases still serve a large purpose on having an announcement/statement on the company letterhead that looks/sounds official. You might consider the using these for:
- A new product launch: When a brand is being introduced for the first time, it’s important to have all the salient facts at-a-glance, as well as to have the CEO’s name cited. Posting a copy online after sending press releases by email also can serve important SEO functions on a company’s freshly launched website.
- With a complex campaign, message or a lot of partners: When there are a lot of moving parts, and/or a lot of players in a program, editors appreciate an organized document that lays out the details and messages vs. an overly-lengthy email press release.
- When dealing with more traditional reporters: Although many reporters find email pitches to have enough information to craft their stories, more traditional reporters like to print out, save and review well-written press releases in the more traditional format. To be a successful PR person, it’s important to make journalists’ job easier. So, if a press release helps them cover your client, absolutely take the time to relay all the great points. It’s always an encouraging when a reporter asks for a press release, after all.
- When dealing with celebrities or CEO’s making an important announcement: Sending press releases by email in a lightening-fast pitch to your top contacts from your blackberry or iPad certainly gets the point across. However when trying to make a larger statement on a big-picture, receiving a thorough press release quoting the exciting details of your project and its people can motivate the media.
- Crisis management: No PR person needs to be mis-quoted on a potential crisis. Make it official in a statement, issuing the facts on a document that editors can point to.
- If you’re going to see the media: If it looks like a TV crew is going to be at your fancy event, bring some press releases. The camera guy may need to bring back a document about who he just filmed and what went down.
A quick pitch via email is still a solid approach for a lot of smaller PR pushes and have become the norm for many a public relations agency reaching out to the media today. For the most part, the short email press release is what the bulk of public relations professionals favor, as they can be customized and offer that quick synopsis that editors look for.
As a rule of thumb, execute an email pitch over the traditional press release in the following circumstances:
- For a smaller announcement: A special event at the local bar is definitely a big deal to the pub owner but maybe not warrant a two page press release. Let the entertainment/nightlife owners see the facts from your friendly email box.
- When you have the relationships/media friendships: The best PR folks do have those established media relationships. An occasional email to the media from their go-to public relations person is suitable and helps you become that knowledgeable expert who has the answers.
- When reminding the media of that lengthy press release: Once you’ve sent the traditional release to the press and have called them (possibly too much), an email about the facts at a shorter capacity is the norm… but clogging up a reporter’s email is a huge PR “no no”.
- When customizing the story (which you should do!): I’ve had the most success when I research an outlet or a reporter and have a story perfectly suited just for them. Taking the time on the back end to do homework on the best angle for them, makes a short email with the right message the absolute way to go. A personalized note vs. an email blast to thousands of people will be read twice as much.
- To grab attention: For better or worse, I’ve always been a fan of a short email pitch that peaks the interest of reporters. If they need/want to know more and want to have the traditional press release, they’ll tell you.
- If the media already knows/loves your brand: When approaching the media who already has written about your company they may not need the boilerplate, lead release and cute-sy title from a formal release. Cut to the chase when they already know the brand.
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