The press release is a tool that is either celebrated or loathed, depending on whom you ask.
You likely align with one of two categories: deprioritizing PR because you don't understand it, or over-torquing because you believe a company must press-release everything.
The truth is that press releases can be a powerful brand tool (in particular for early-stage companies), but only when used strategically. But they've gotten a bad rap because they're often abused and misused.
There is no magic PR formula, but ensuring your announcement is newsworthy is the key to success.
What Makes a Press Release Fail
Most press releases fail because they are...
- Not meaningful to your (or any) audience
- Poorly written
- Poorly distributed
- Just not news
If you or your company leaders over-torque on press releases, you may believe that...
- Every idea is a good idea to press-release
- When you put a press release on the wire, you'll automatically get news coverage
- All newswires are created equal
- Industry media will definitely cover your story (I mean, how could they not?!)
- Putting out a press release will open the sales-lead floodgates
What Makes a Press Release Succeed
Comparing the amount of coverage you get with larger competitors and their peers can be tough. The reality is that A LOT of work goes into successful announcements. I mean WEEKS of work.
Successful announcements aren't a success because of the newswire. They're a success because of strategic angles that appeal to different audiences, consistent PR outreach, and active pitching—which is highly underrated.
Press releases are a tool, a part of your larger business strategy. Press releases can generate earned media, market demand, authority, credibility, and brand awareness. They're also a powerful validator.
A few years back, a friend of mine took a job at Amazon Web Services. He shared that to greenlight AWS product development, the product owner had to write a press release promoting and describing the product and its launch.
That was shocking to my friend for two reasons:
- He's an engineer and engineers aren't usually tasked with writing press releases.
- It was hard to conceive of a press-ready release when the product hadn't even gone through production and testing yet.
Through the PR drafting process, however, stakeholders (no matter what role they're in) are forced to think through important details that can be overlooked in the go-to-market rush. They must demonstrate the product's purpose and prove that it's worth the time, investment, and resources required for the company to create and sustain it.
It's a brilliant approach, and my friend quickly became a believer.
It all goes back to the purpose of the press release: meaningful news creation.
What Makes News Worthy of a Press Release
So, how do you know whether your announcement is meaningful and newsworthy?
Start by creating a table with four types of news announcements: corporate, product, thought leadership, and partner/community. Some examples:
- Corporate: funding raise, global expansion (new office), high-profile leadership hire, noteworthy achievement
- Product: New product release (caution: not all new product capabilities are newsworthy)
- Thought leadership: Self-generated research, studies, case studies, trending statistics
- Partner/community: Program launches, high-profile partnerships (but not every new partner is newsworthy), new offerings, community initiatives
Now, chart those pillars and topics over the next few quarters. Add horizon announcements and tentative dates or timelines. Et voilà: you've just created your company's news generation calendar!
A thoughtful news calendar is like a secret weapon. It's a corporate strategy aide that, when used at the leader level, can hold the company accountable for dates and targets.
Maintaining and executing your calendar produces benefits that can trace to real data (i.e., ROI), validate your PR efforts, and help you build a brand scorecard that demonstrates brand reach.
Benefits can also include...
- Company momentum
- Brand awareness among target audiences
- Marketing efforts, such as SEO and search
- Investor interest
- Merger or acquisition interest or activity
- Market demand
- New partnerships
- Credibility and word-of-mouth referrals
- Competitive differentiation
- Thought leadership
- Additional media opportunities, such as podcast interviews and contributed bylines
When you or your leadership team think about creating a press release, first ask yourself these questions as a way to validate its relevance:
- Are you announcing something relevant and new? In other words, is truly newsworthy?
- Which specific audiences will care about your announcement? And who are your audiences, anyway—investors, customers, potential buyers, niche industry groups, partners, professional associations...? Tip: your announcement doesn't have to align with every one of your audiences, but it should clearly align with at least one.
- Why will your audiences care about your announcement? What's in it for them? For example, will your Series A raise create buzz in the investment community? Is your new AI chatbot going to revolutionize communications or journalism? Is your new technology radically disrupting or disputing common practices?
- Where's the proof? For example, how much did you raise? (Is it impressive? Why?) Is your AI chatbot eliminating human skills or drastically reducing the need for human input (and by how much)? What data or statistics can you share to demonstrate how impactful your new tech is or how disruptive it is? What problem does it solve?
- What's the timing? Allow 2-5 weeks lead time for most announcements. Yes, they can happen faster, but that's not ideal. Drafting and reviews can take 1-2 weeks. Building media pitches, lists, and communications plans can take another week. Pre-pitching on more newsworthy announcements should happen one week out from the drop. Less than two weeks' lead time can devalue announcement outcomes. Plan ahead!
- Who's your spokesperson? And what key messages should that person convey if interviews pop up?
- How are you going to deploy the news? Do you have a PR firm that can help you pitch the news? Are you going to post to a newswire? Are you considering a customer email, and how would you reframe your announcement so it's meaningful to them? (For example: We're so grateful for your continued support and we're automatically upgrading you to our new AI chatbot for free!)
Map your audiences, and consider how you can share your news with an angle that's relevant to the outlets they read. Be your own PR person: Email editors a copy of your press release with a personal note that highlights key takeaways for their readers.
* * *
When creating a press release, park company ego at the door and put your audiences first. Doing so will ensure your announcement is meaningful, strategic, and effective.
The press release isn't dead. It just needs strategic resuscitation.
More Resources on Making Your Press Release Successful
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