Public Relations Firm

Publicity Is Not About Sending Press Releases!!!

By Diana Laverdure

public relations practitioner

I have to tell you a secret. I am FED UP with everything I read from my fellow PR practitioners. Why? They do give quite a bit of good advice on certain matters, but when it comes to the all-important publicity - or media relations - they often fall WAY short of offering sound advice.

What is wrong with their advice? I'll tell you. Time and again, in articles I read from PR "gurus" on tips for getting media publicity, they base their "expert" advice on a flawed premise!

What is that premise?

That obtaining meaningful publicity begins with sending out press releases.


That statement is so strong that it bears repeating. Sending out press releases is NOT the first step in obtaining meaningful media coverage of your product, service or business.

But, Diana, I've read so many articles about how to write press releases to generate media coverage. Are you sure you know what you're talking about?

Trust me. I know what I'm talking about.

My colleagues and I are all former journalists who have had successful careers as reporters and editors. We are also seasoned PR pros who have obtained coverage for our clients in national media including CNN, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, NPR, Associated Press… and many, many more.

And we didn't accomplish any of it by sending out press releases.
So, if you want to obtain meaningful, positive media coverage for you product, service or business, I'm going to ask you to first do one thing. Forget about press releases.

It's not that there's never a place for them. There is. Every once in a while. If you have a huge announcement to make. Or an event you want to get a listing for. But I'm going to give you much more powerful strategies you can use to capture the media's attention and gain publicity that will increase your name recognition, increase your credibility and position you as a leader in your industry. And that CAN NOT be accomplished with a mere press release.

First, you may ask, "why aren't press releases effective to accomplish these goals?" After all, you've heard so much about them. You may have even purchased books or CDs about how to write an effective press release.

But I will repeat.


Let me tell you why.

First, in case you didn't know this, reporters and editors are FLOODED with press releases. Some of them receive hundreds of press releases every day. And most of them are self-serving and completely un-newsworthy. The result?

They become frustrated every time they see a press release in their in-box. For media, press releases have become the equivalent of junk mail. They just don't have the time to sift through all of the press releases they receive every day. So, what do they do? They ignore them or hit the delete button without even bothering to read the content. Think about all the "junk mail" you have to sift through every day when you get home from work. Do you have the time to read each piece? Of course not. What do you end up doing? Ripping most of it up without even glancing at it, I'd guess. And that's just what the media ends up doing with most press releases. Only they do it electronically, by hitting the "delete" button.

Second, most newsrooms have cut their budgets way back. As a result they are extremely short staffed, and what staff they do have is severely underpaid and overworked. Yes, that's right. Most reporters and editors are extremely underpaid and extremely overworked.

Now, that's good news for PR people and others who know how to help these individuals, because it means they are looking for ways to make their lives easier, and that they are open to solid story leads. But it also means that, once again, they do not have time to sift through a bunch of press releases that flood their in-boxes on a daily basis. They are doing the jobs of two, and sometimes three, people, and they are extremely stressed out. They want ideas that will make their lives easier, not junk mail that takes up a lot of their time and offers them little or no substance.

Okay. Now that we understand a bit more about just why press releases are not the way to entice the media to cover your product, service, or business, let's talk about some strategies that WILL interest them. Pay close attention, because if you follow these ideas you will be sure to win friends in the media and garner positive coverage for yourself in the process. Here they are:

Offer yourself as an expert source to reporters covering your industry.
Reporters are always looking for experts they can contact for quotes in articles. I'm sure you have read many such articles, and might even have been impressed that the "expert source" quoted must indeed be a real maven on his/her industry if he/she was sought out by the media. Well, let me clue you in on something right now! Chances are that the "expert source" in question either had a public relations firm or was savvy at public relations themselves, and they contacted the reporter offering themselves as a source - not the other way around! Offering yourself as an expert source on your industry is a great way to form a relationship with reporters, show them that you are responsive and knowledgeable, and get yourself media coverage. Being quoted as an expert source will go a long way toward establishing you as an expert in your industry, a leader in your field, and ahead of your competition in knowledge and expertise. It's also a great way to get to know reporters and to show them that you are available to help them when they need it. Once you establish this type of positive rapport, it might even open the door to your suggesting other story ideas to these same reporters - ideas that, of course, highlight your company and result in even more in-depth coverage.

So, how do you offer yourself as an expert source? All you have to do is read your local papers (or trade publications covering your industry, or even national publications) and find out who is writing about your industry.

Next, write up a short bio on yourself, emphasizing your experience in your industry, your areas of expertise, and issues you are available to comment on.

Then, e-mail this information to the reporters with a short letter introducing yourself, stating that you have noticed that they often cover your industry, and offering yourself as an expert source.

You might even follow up with a telephone call a few days after you send this e-mail. But be sure that you never begin a conversation with, "I just wanted to make sure you received my e-mail…." There is no surer way to make a reporter groan.

Instead, first ask them if this is a good time for them to talk. If they say no, thank them and ask them if there is a better time when you can call back. If they say yes, reiterate that you have noticed that they often write about your industry, and that you would like to help them by being a readily available expert source that they can contact for commentary. Let them know that you have sent them a bio on yourself and offer to re-send it in case they never received it (this will get them off the hook in case they can't find it or accidentally deleted it).

Just remember one thing. Once you offer yourself as an expert source, be sure that you are readily available to answer questions and provide commentary on a moment's notice. Reporters work on tight deadlines, and offering to be of service to the media will only backfire if you do not follow through on your promise to provide timely commentary to fit their needs and suit their deadlines. Remember, you want to gain the reputation as being a valuable resource to the media, and you will only gain this reputation by being available and responsive. The last thing you want to do is to offer your expertise and then be hard to reach, take a long time returning phone calls, etc.

Offer expert advice in the form of by-lined articles.
As I mentioned above, many media outlets are so short-staffed, and their reporters and editors are stretched so thin, that they don't have time to write all of their own content. So, what do they do to fill the pages of their newspapers and magazines? They turn to "expert sources" (there's that term again) to provide content in the form of by-lined articles.

So, just how can you increase your chances of getting your by-lined article published?

First, identify a common problem or issue related to your field of expertise. A good place to begin is with common questions that you are asked by your clients. For example, if you are an accountant, you might often be asked ____________?

Once you have established the "problem," figure out what information you can give to help solve it. In our accounting example, we might write an article about "Five Ways You Can __________."

Once you have identified a topic and you have your readers' "problem" and your "solution," you are all set to write your article.

But before you do, it is important that you remember a few things:

  • Do not use "jargon." Every industry has it's own "language" that's commonly understood by insiders but often completely alien to outsiders. If you use jargon in your articles you will only serve to frustrate your readers rather than helping them. Rather than coming across as an expert, you run the risk of appearing out of touch with your readers. And chances are you won't be invited to contribute repeat articles to the same publication.

  • Use sub-headings and bullet points where appropriate. Sub-headings, which serve to identify the information following them, are a nice way to break up copy and make reading easier. Bullet points highlight information within the sub-headings and again make reading easier by breaking up copy. You'll notice that I'm using both sub-heads and bullet points in this Special Report.

  • Be yourself. Often when people write they try too hard to sound "academic" in an effort to come across as knowledgeable. There's no need to do this and, just the contrary, such an approach will make your copy dry and uninteresting (how many academic journals have you cuddled up to in bed at night?). Instead, try illustrating your message with short anecdotes and be sure to let your true "voice" shine through. You don't want to be someone in your writing that you're not in person.

  • Keep your articles tight. Unless you're told otherwise, the length of a typical by-lined article is about 850 words. Trade journals are sometimes longer, so be sure to ask beforehand. You don't want to turn it in only to find that you have to cut away half of your work!

  • Do NOT be sales-y. This is the most important point of all. Writing an article that's just a platform to talk about how great your company, product or service is will result in a direct route to the editor's delete button. Your goal is to educate your readers on an important issue related to your industry, not to do a sales pitch. In fact, in most instances (unless it's a case study you're doing), the only reference to your company should be at the end in your by-line. Here is an example that you can follow:

    Jane Smith is president of Smith and Associates Accounting in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1995, Smith and Associates concentrates on helping its clients achieve _______________. She is past president of the Pasadena Accountants Association and the ________________. Smith can be reached at or visit

Identify a trend in your industry and offer your company as an example.
Reporters and editors are always interested in trends, and this is a great way to become part of a broader article. This strategy worked great for our agency not too long ago. We noticed that more and more doctors were hiring us to publicize their practices, rather than just turning to advertising, as had been popular in the past. The reason was that in an increasingly crowded marketplace, publicity, unlike advertising, afforded them the ability to educate potential patients on various procedures as well as to gain credibility and position themselves as experts in their medical discipline, all while receiving increased name recognition and branding their practices.

I called up a business reporter at one of the large South Florida newspapers and explained this trend, citing the reasons why I believed this shift from advertising to publicity was occurring. The reporter (who covered the marketing beat) loved the idea. She interviewed my partner and I, along with one of our major physician clients. She also interviewed another PR agency as well as an industry association, both of which confirmed the trend that we identified. The result was that our client's photo appeared in the paper (an extra boost as it further ingratiated us to him!) as well as a photo of my partner and me. This, along with our expert quotes on the topic - which included an explanation of the benefits that physicians received by using PR over advertising - resulted in several physicians calling and hiring us. We weren't the only PR firm quoted, but that didn't matter. Since we brought the idea to the reporter we received primary play in the article, and we crafted our message so that our quotes really counted in influencing our target audience - physicians. We picked up several knew physician clients from that article who have turned out to be a large part of our bread and butter.

The lesson? Never let your ego get in the way and refrain from pitching "trend" articles to reporters because you're afraid that you won't be the only company spotlighted. After all, it wouldn't be a trend if it were only happening to you!

I hope that this special report has helped you realize that press releases are not the primary ingredient to garnering meaningful publicity coverage for your product, service or business. By employing the ideas mentioned above you will show the media that you are a true expert in your field, and that you want to use that expertise to help them deliver timely, quality news articles to their readers. Now that is a sure way to get publicity.

Good luck and be sure to read our other Special Reports as we continue to generate them. We're sure they'll provide invaluable help as you continue to use publicity to leap ahead of your competition!

© 2005, Diana Laverdure. All Rights Reserved.

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