Thursday, March 5, 2009

It's Not a News Release if There's No News in It

There's no question that the news/press release is evolving as a media relations tool. But there's also no question that no matter what you call it, or how you present or distribute it, it must:
  • 1. Contain news or useful information
  • 2. Be distributed in a format that makes the content easy to use
I like to use my inbox for examples that illustrate these lessons; today's inbox included a brief cover note with a PDF attachment. (Let's just skip past the "no attachments" rule.) Because I always instruct those I'm mentoring to present their news materials in a format that's easy to copy and paste -- which doesn't describe a PDF file -- I opened the attachment. I wanted to see how bad it was.

It was really bad.

I'm not sure what to call it, but it wasn't the promised "news release." Maybe it was an ad. Maybe it was a flyer. Maybe it was sales collateral. I'm not sure.

The attachment was for a well-known manufacturer of brand name home power tools, so I was extra surprised at how useless it was. (I have higher standards for companies with bigger publicity budgets.)

It was a highly designed collage of seriously-Photoshopped photos of six products. Under each photo was a description of the tool, what it does, and its price. I don't know which products are new. I don't know what makes any of these products different from or better than their competitors. And I don't know what the publicist expects me to do with the short product descriptions -- not that it matters. I don't write about that stuff.

How usable is the content? Not usable at all. I can't right click and save the product photos. I wouldn't be able to use them, either, because of the visual enhancements -- the products are artificially highlighted so they stand out against the environment they're photographed against. The text can't be copied or pasted either -- which is typical of PDFs -- but it clearly wasn't written for editorial purposes. At best, the text might get a journalist thinking about a product category round-up piece. At best. And even that forces me to think too much.

So, publicist at the bigname company, if you want me to start thinking of articles I can write around your products, send me a pitch letter with article idea suggestions. If you want to send me a news release, send me news in a text format that I can copy and paste. And if you want to send me sales collateral, as you've done here, take me off your distribution list. I don't like to waste anyone's time -- yours or mine.

2 comments:

We the People Festival said...

Thanks for the tips. Your articles are very informative, I'll be sure to take notes ;)

Sandra Beckwith said...

Hey, thanks for the kind words. Please let me know if you're interested in a particular topic -- I'm happy to help.