Press releases: what are they? Free advertising or easy copy? Access to a well of knowledge or barricades against nosey journalists?
At different times, in different circumstances and for different media, they can be any of those things and more besides. But in the business-to-business (B2B) press, they play a more important role than many editors would like to admit: with few staff and minimal budgets for commissioning bespoke wxcvxcvriting and research, a press release on a topical and relevant development will always be welcome.
But it might not be published and these notes are intended to explain why that is and how a relationship between editors and marketing managers can be built to encourage mutual respect that will benefit both sides.
Before publishing anything, an editor should always ask these questions:
- Why do my readers need to know this information?
- Why do they need to know it now?
A press release that has obvious answers to those priorities is more likely to be considered.
If a ‘new’ piece of equipment has been in service for six months, the release must explain why only now is it worth reporting, otherwise the editor will favour a release about another piece of technology that is just starting sea trials. And although the 1,000th order for a widget is a landmark for its manufacturer, an editor knows that none of his or her readers will suddenly be interested to know that a number they have never thought about before has reached 1,000.
But if an analysis of those first 1,000 sales shows a growing demand for the wifi-enabled version, or requests for a float-free model or some other trend and this has prompted the product development team to think about a version 2.0, then readers will learn something by hearing about it and the editor will publish it. A good test for relevance to a B2B audience – for both editors and press release writers – is whether any decisions will be made on the basis of the information. If not, look for a different angle or don’t waste everyone’s time.
Two important details for every press release
Every press release should include two important details:
- a date
- contact details for more information
Both seem obvious but – especially when a release is published on a company’s website – one or both of those often goes missing. Especially if a release is to have any future reference value, that date will be essential. If the contact details are removed because they will go out of date, then that section of the website should include a named contact with a direct email address and phone number – not just the company’s ‘info@’ address and switchboard number.
As for the contact person, they should be someone who really can offer more information and who can be quoted by name.
Photographs must be good quality
Editors like photos, but they must be good quality. Words can be rewritten but photos cannot be retaken. They should be at least 1,000 pixels across and pin-sharp. And they should be relevant. If the release is about that new shipping service, editors will want to have a picture of the ship in one of the ports, rather than the company’s operations director.
What is important is that a picture must illustrate something mentioned in the release, so if it is sent out with a picture of the CEO, he or she should be in a situation that is in some way relevant. Otherwise it just shows that the CEO knows how to dress smartly and sit up straight. If the CEO has made an announcement, show him in mid-speech. If it is about a new office, photograph the CEO in the new office.
Companies should also consider compiling an online photo library. When an editor needs a picture for a feature about surveying, for example, you can be sure that it will be the class society with an online image library whose logo will appear in the feature’s heading image.
Finally, a press release must be accurate. Obviously, no marketing executive should issue a release that is deliberately incorrect, but errors can easily creep in. Is a number in kW or MW? Has a length been correctly converted from feet to metres? Are all the names correctly spelled? If there is any hyperlinked text, do the links all work?
Build a two-way relationship
Get all these things right, and there is a good chance that a press release can serve both the company issuing it and the editor receiving it and a relationship can develop. But this is only the first step...