Over the past couple years, there have been plenty of people inside and outside the public relations community who have declared the news release "dead." I couldn't disagree more. In fact, I believe the current environment, in which people search for and discover information that is valuable to them without the interference of traditional "gatekeepers" such as editors and journalists, makes the news release more powerful and important than ever.
Instead of having to catch the eye of journalists and editors, news releases now can make a direct impact on the end users of information. As Sarah Palin might say, we can now directly target Joe Sixpack with our message instead of having to waste time and energy impressing the media elite.
Even so, it remains important for organizations to carefully consider whether the information they are disseminating has value. If you send out value-less information -- whether to the media or directly to your audience -- you will train them to ignore you. So, examine carefully whether what you are promoting is newsworthy before kicking off a publicity effort.
Before you take your story public, consider this five-point checklist to formulate the important messages that need to be communicated:
1. Prominence. How big is this really? Is this part of a larger trend or will it have a lasting impact?
2. Timeliness. Remember, the first three letters in "news" spell "NEW!" Did it just happen or is it about to happen? Does it tie in with a current public interest?
3. Punch. What impact will your story have on your company and your audiences, and how many people will be effected?
4. Proximity. Is this of interest to only a select few in a fairly confined geographic area, or will it be of interest to a regional, national or global audience?
5. Personal. Is there a human interest element? Who can you speak to in order to make the story more "real" to the audience? They like to consume information that reflects their personal situations. I like to think of it as the Brady Bunch factor. When I was a kid, everyone crowded around the TV set to watch the Brady Bunch because whether you were 8 or 18, a boy or a girl, the stories told reflected the lives of the audience. You need to do the same thing in your story telling.
Depending on how well the story you are crafting fits these parameters, you may want to modify your course of action and/or your expectations. Maybe it would be better to use it in an e-newsletter or on a blog post. Perhaps trade publications would be better to approach than the business page of your daily newspaper. Perhaps you should flesh out the personal side of your story, recognizing that an emotional element will be more interesting to many journalists.
The bottom line: don't just continue to do something because you have always done it. Adjust your approach to match your strategies and objectives. If what you really want to do is alert your customers and prospects about a new product or service, maybe it is no longer necessary to think first about the media. Maybe you can reach your audience directly instead.