Why Press Releases Don't Work Anymore

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Should your association still be issuing press releases to get coverage for its achievements, events, and other news? Here's an idea that is much more likely to get the results you're searching for.

By Marsha Friedman

Press releases just aren't effective anymore at getting the quality and quantity of publicity your association needs. Why?

  1. The traditional media all have websites. 24/7 news outlets that constantly require fresh, new, high-quality content to attract visitors. Online staff trying to "feed the beast" are far more likely to post a well-written, newsworthy article than an announcement about an association milestone, new product or event, or change in personnel.
  2. Traditional media staffs have been dwindling for years. The number of newspaper journalists alone has dropped more than 30 percent since 2000, according to the Pew Research Center. Smaller staffs mean less time for turning conventional press releases into interesting articles and posts.
  3. Today, anyone can publish and broadcast via the web. Before the Internet, we relied solely on traditional media to publish or broadcast the news. Conventional press releases were our private plea to them. While that doesn't diminish the value of newspapers, TV, and radio, they still have clout, credibility and large audiences - it does change how we communicate with them.

Instead, try to make it as easy as possible for journalists to use your content, and you can begin by writing newsworthy articles in a ready-to-publish format.

So, what can you do to get publicity for your association or organization?

First, think about what would make that news item interesting to someone who's never heard of you or your association.

  • Does your new product address a problem that a lot of people share? Can you cite documented statistics or studies that reveal the breadth of the problem and/or its consequences? Can you share tips for dealing with the problem?
  • If your organization is celebrating a milestone, such as 50 years in business, can you offer insights into how your industry has changed in those five decades and what those changes have meant to members and/or consumers? Can you offer them a glimpse of what your industry may offer them in the future?
  • If you're celebrating an award, others will appreciate learning from your success. What steps did you take? What lessons did you learn?

Use those answers to write a short, objective news story- one that doesn't include subjective adjectives, like "wonderful new product" or "innovative, ground-breaking organization."

Also, work in advance- it's better to send your pitch to media outlets before your news is old news. But before you do, do your homework.

  • Familiarize yourself with the publications or sites you're pitching. Don't waste your time by sending them a pitch on a topic they have no interest in.
  • Search the publication or website for deadline information and policies for submitting unsolicited material.
  • Grab them with your email's subject line. If it doesn't catch their interest, or it looks like a sales pitch, they wonâ't open it. Keep your subject line limited to five to eight words or about 40 characters.

If you've been sending out press releases and getting no response, it's time to try giving the media what they want: Valuable information shared in a way they can easily use. You'll get publicity that showcases your association as the authority in its field and the implied endorsement of journalists, bloggers, and other media.

They may even appreciate your contributions so much they'll come running back for more.

Marsha Friedman is the founder of pay-for-performance public relations firm EMS Incorporated.

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