Is your press release like a message in a bottle?

This evergreen post was published on our blog in 2009. We have updated it for today.

When to use press releases

Is a press release any good anymore?


If you are pitching a national story with strong news interest and relevance, you can use a release to make sure select outlets and journalists you interact with have all the information they need. However, if you are just using it like a message in a bottle, casting it out on the water just to see who answers; not so much.

Press releases have evolved

The use of press releases has evolved. Releases are a great tool for reaching prospective customers if you publish them to your own website. Self-publishing them to your blog or newsroom first is critical. Avoid putting them on multiple free press release sites as these move traffic away from your own site and this tactic has sailed like a ghost ship over the horizon. Google even may mark your website as spam if you post press releases to non-relevant sites. The reality is that releases can help you deepen content on your website and are great when optimized well to bring interested customers to your site.

The days of mass blasting of a news release are gone. Or they should be. If your public relations consultant says this is what you should do, run! What is imperative is a carefully crafted pitch to bloggers, social media followers and interested journalists with whom you’ve developed relationships. Get to know journalists in your field first. With bloggers, seek permission to send a release or know that they are open to receiving your release before you send it. And for all outlets and journalists, make sure to deliver your press release in the manner that they request. Some reporters and editors no longer wish to receive press releases via e-mail and have returned to the days of snail mail.

Relationships come first

Don’t wait to get to know bloggers and journalists; develop your relationship with them over the course of time. Follow them on social media. Reading and following their writing, interacting with them on social media and commenting on their work. Create value and become a known source and then when you have a story to pitch or news to share, they frequently are much more open to receiving it.

If you need help attracting attention for newsworthy stories from your business, give us a call. We’d love to provide our counsel to your business.

When to Send a Media Alert Rather Than a Press Release

Over the last several years I’ve written a number of times about press releases. We’ve discussed online newsrooms, and how to develop and pitch story ideas and how press releases support your pitches. But I don’t think I’ve written about the press releases’ brother, the media alert which is sometimes called a media advisory.

What and when to send a media alert

A media alert is best used to call attention to an event that has components suitable for visual media coverage. That means television, digital media like blogs and more traditional print media such as newspapers and magazines.

Media alerts can be created from some of the content used in your press release but their format is quite different. They are not press releases. They are more direct and to the point. A media alert is precise and describes for the editor what visually interesting events will happen and why the outlet might want to assign a videographer, news reporter or photographer cover it. Of special interest to media is a chronology of events taking place so they may cover the visually compelling parts of the event. Frequently television news media don’t have time to hang out for an hour, but want to capture video of the visually rich bits. So help them out by providing a schedule that allows them to dispatch a videographer to capture what they want.

The advisory also contains a list of entities participating in the photo op and the organizer’s contact information so the reporter may call to get credentials organized or get more information. It’s also helpful to include a map, directions or link to a map to help media find the event location easily.

Who should get a media advisory?

Media alerts are generally sent to television news and assignment editors or reporters covering specific beats.

You can view a great example of an online media advisory from NASA. You’ll notice how NASA is making great use of the web as a hub for their advisory. This way they can tweet, post and share the content without having to send the alert as an attachment or inline content. Media interested can use the information and access it from any location or with any device.

Click through to view an example from 2013 which we created for our client. [PDF] We invited the media to a behind the scenes rehearsal event. During the event, media were able to observe an opera rehearsal and meet performers. This event resulted in great coverage because of the event’s unique nature. Generally visual media don’t get invited “backstage.”

The other time you may want to send a media alert out is if you have a “presser” or a press conference. Generally these types of events are highly news-worthy and timely. Below you can view an image of a media advisory sent to media in advance of a press conference held years ago. You’ll note that the lead-in explains the reasons for the event and who will be there.

Media Advisory Example News Story

Information to include in your advisory

Always to be sure to explain the Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why. And describe the event so the news editor understands why your event is worthy of coverage.

Do you have questions about when to use media alerts and advisories? Just ask below in the comments and I’ll be glad to answer.

A Rant: Stop the Corporate Speak and Use Plain Language

With plain language, every reader will comprehend your meanings, just as brightly as the sun shines through the forest.

Plain language enhances readability

In the graphic design world, when we are working on a layout and don’t have actual text to be used in the design, we use what is called Greeking. You know what it is – it’s that text that always reads, “Loreum ipsum…”  While it’s actually Latin, it serves as a placeholder, helping the designer determine how text will flow around objects in the design.

There are Loreum ipsum generators which provide paragraphs of Greeking for use in layouts. Someone even came out with a Corporate Ipsum generator. The Corporate Ipsum generator provides semi-intelligible text (as opposed to Latin) which is based on the corporate speak/gobbledegook which passes for language in the hallowed halls of some publically traded companies. This is a sample of Corporate Ipsum:

Dynamically brand technically sound manufactured products rather than multifunctional vortals. Assertively recaptiualize multidisciplinary internal or “organic” sources after extensive total linkage. Energistically disseminate extensible leadership rather than e-business internal or “organic” sources. Energistically incentivize seamless supply chains and future-proof expertise. Holisticly negotiate leading-edge processes whereas open-source systems. Authoritatively pontificate out-of-the-box e-tailers for functional “outside the box” thinking. Quickly morph principle-centered metrics without e-business deliverables. Collaboratively repurpose visionary outsourcing with scalable imperatives.

As you read the paragraph above, did you just scream, “Enough!” I did. It is a mystery why corporations use dense language which obscures meaning.

Corporate ipsum is the opposite of plain language

While reading an  on-line publication, I came across a press release / promotion announcement which first paragraph reads:

[Name of Company], the trusted leader in human capital management, announced the appointment of [Name of Person] as its Chief Executive Officer. After successfully serving as [previous position] for the past year, Person has been responsible for tightening execution across the company and preparing the firm to broadly leverage its strength in workforce solutions. Named one of the fastest growing private firms by Inc. magazine, Name of Firm has transformed [redacted] processes with innovative, relevant solutions that drive high-performing organizations.

Do you have any idea what this person is going to do? Or why the promotion was earned? No. Neither do I.

What the heck is human capital management? Yes, I know it’s what used to be called human resources or personnel but human capital management makes it sound as if this company equates people with inanimate objects or just parts…to be managed, interchangeably. What’s even worse in my opinion is that this person is credited with “tightening execution” – for heaven’s sake! Who wants their CEO of human resources to be associated with execution –  some third-world dictator perhaps?

If the government can use plain language, so can corporations

Journalists don’t write like this. Even the IRS and government have been compelled to write in the everyday language.

The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to write “clear Government communication that the public can understand and use.”

Doctors are instructed to provide health guidance in plain language. There is no reason that everyday language must be stupid or dumbed-down. There are many phrases that have explicit meanings and are more understandable than “tightening execution.”

Plain language enhances readers’ ability to understand and remember your message. Every press release your firm issues, every brochure you print, every ad you place ought to be comprehensible by every reader. If a single person is not able to understand what you mean because you have said your firm wishes to “broadly leverage its strength”, you’ve failed.

Don’t obscure your meaning

Plain language is the key that unlocks clarity in the readers’ mind. Corporate speak obscures meaning and detracts from comprehension. It lessens your readers’ ability to remember or recall your message. Resolve to use plain language in all your corporate or business communications.