The Death of the Press Release

An article released this past week by a recognized public relations professional announced the demise of the press release. As an author, business owner or pastor should you care? Absolutely! Here's why.... 
It has been the "go to" piece for editors which, if done well, assists them with details as they begin to craft their article. Or it is a quick review sheet for a guest coordinator to review your material. It is a concise one page, double-spaced sheet, which can be about your newest business endeavor, staff addition, expansion project, community event or in terms of writing---a new book release.  
As I read the article I realized the author hadn't made her case for the death of the news release, but it did confirm the need for the  death of the scatter shot yet wide-spread practice of hiring a wire service to release a press release. That's the practice that needs to die (if you want real results) and good riddance.
Many public relations and news wire services have built their businesses around the promise that they will release your press release to hundreds if not thousands of "key media professionals" who will receive your important information. But receiving it in their "in" box is one thing. Opening it; quite another. For a small fee, usually around $100-$200, the wire service will let you upload your release and distribute it for you to this amazing database of newspaper & magazine editors and television and radio guest coordinators. That's what they promise. And in fact, probably, to some degree, what they deliver.
The problem? The reality is your press release is going to be one of hundreds they receive that day not just from one news wire service, but several. Let's consider for a moment the most important question, "What is going to get them to read yours?" Without a big name, great hook or some standout piece of information the answer is NOTHING. Your money was wasted. 
However, is that a problem with the press release or in the delivery? I suggest it is the latter.
I still use press releases--all the time--when announcing the release of a new book. Why? Because they serve a purpose.
But I don't mass email them. That's a worthless endeavor in my opinion. It comes with the hope that if I send the release to enough people, the law of averages will kick in and a percentage will read it. If you want to spend your money that way, just let me know, I'll be happy to oblige. 
But if you want to see results from your press release, then you simply follow some easy-to-follow rules:
1. Target it.

Write it so that it includes material that the media is looking for. That could mean that you write three to four versions of the same press release based on who will be reading it. One group may be a current events program. One might be a parenting program. Another might be a general interest audience. Each will be written with a slightly different emphasis.The key is to know your audience.
2. Know who you are sending it to.

Scatter shot, random mailings don't produce much in the way of results. Know the media source and what stories they are looking for. Address the intended recipient by name in the email if possible.   
3. Follow up.

Again just emailing it out does little more than get it there. A follow-up phone call gives you a chance to bring it to their attention and get them to open it. Have your elevator pitch ready to grab their attention and try to confirm an interview or news story.
Read my blog "Are You Ready to Pitch" on creating a great elevator pitch
4. Include a picture.

Truly the saying "a picture speaks a thousand words" is applicable. I've had stories picked up simply because the picture included was so intriguing. On the flip side, without a picture, you might even lose the opportunity for a story. Pictures are important.   
5. Less is more.

Try to stay with one-page, double-spaced journalistic style. This isn't a sales flyer. Give the facts, but make it interesting.   
A Tool In Your Toolbox  
Your press release is that essential tool that you can stick in your book as you hand a complimentary copy to radio host, the influencer, the pastor, who can get a really good overview of content of your book. It's a great tool, that when written well, helps the media professional "cut to the chase" and quickly pull out the information they need for a story, to determine if they want to interview you or for a pastor to decide if they want to call you to possibly come speak.
It's a tool that you can use on your website, or forward as an information piece again and again. It can be updated as the stats on your book increase and as endorsements are added. It's not a static piece of information. It can be vibrant if done well.
So is the press release really dead? Nope. Don't believe it. But the days of random mass emails to any one and every one under the sun on that rented mailing list hopefully are.
Use your time and resources wisely. Target your mailings and provide compelling content and a hook. Editor's and guest coordinators are always looking for news worthy material. Make sure you provide what they need, with all the information they need. Make their job easy. Know what editors are looking for those type stories AND do your follow up you will have a recipe for success.