Press Releases

Press Releases are the means whereby editors of local, regional and national newspapers, journals and the specialist press hear your news and decide whether it is of interest to their readership. If it is viewed as interesting, editorial space, and the position of that space, will be given in proportion to the level of interest.

The difference between advertising and editorial is that, as advertising is paid for, you have control over it. With editorial you have no control over what is published, or when it is published.

Public Relations agencies exist to maximise not just editorial and advertising but all forms of public relations. Whilst these specialist agencies have much to offer and are very professional, they are expensive and this can be prohibitive for many Vars and ISV's.

There is much that Vars and ISV's can do to maximise editorial coverage for themselves. Understanding what media your customers and other publics read is the key to success. Ask your customers what they read and see what journals are lying around their company. Most senior staff read journals dedicated to the market they are in and they may belong to a profession, or institute, with their own journal. Different media will be interested in different types of story. Local papers may be interested in your five aside football team or the roundabout you are sponsoring. The computer press may be interested in the size of your last order or the latest technology you are installing. Regional papers will be interested in plans for investment and expansion.

Lists of journals and their editors, can be entered on a suitable database. Editors are busy people but they do read press releases. Provided what you say is news worthy, and presented in a way which is easy to read and edit, you will get coverage.

Whilst getting to know key editors, what their deadlines are and how they work, is good practice, it is not mandatory for small companies. Having to leave the compilation and distribution of press releases to a specialist public relations agency because only they know the editors, and can wine and dine them, is rubbish.

Most journals will provide a features list for several months ahead. This details forthcoming features by month and forewarns you of what will be topical. If you are about to launch a new product or win an interesting order relevant to a feature, then public interest will be higher. Coinciding your press release with such a feature is good practice.

Press Releases should follow a plain style whereby only necessary information is given. They often look stark, but this is the preferred style that makes an editors job easier. The story should be printed double spaced so it is easy to edit. A punchy heading followed by a paragraph which outlines the whole story, followed by paragraphs which further develop the story-line, enable an editor to choose the paragraphs of interest. If an editor can simply select the paragraphs he likes, you have made his job quick and easy.

If a press release is controversial, a journalist will telephone you. Journalists are on the look-out for something sensational and have been known to develop a story beyond that envisaged by the author. So if you think your press release is going to be controversial you should think the issues through, work out likely questions, and have prepared answers. Make sure your staff know only you speak to the press. If your story is going to be very controversial, it might be best to employ a PR professional, otherwise it is easy for things to get out of hand.

Another way of gaining editorial coverage is to write articles. On board Canberra, during Comdef `94, I had the privilege of dinning with the managing director of a company who supplies warehousing systems. His company is the market leader and I asked him to what he attributed his success. His success comes from understanding more about warehousing than his customers or competitors, and by his company guiding customers to the future. Such a man can gain much credibility by writing articles for specialist press, and by speaking about the issues that will affect the future of an industry.

In fact, this is a characteristic of market leaders in our sector of the market. Most of our customers suffer the same problems that we do, they are so busy dealing with day to day issues that they have no time to plan for the future. As the providers of IT systems we are in an ideal position to help our customers extend their competitive advantage and stay ahead of the game.

Rules for Press Releases:

  • Your story must be of interest
  • Your press database must be up to date
  • Press Releases must be clear, concise and uncluttered
  • Use double spacing throughout * Let your staff know only you speak to the press
  • Fax or E-mail your press release to the editor
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