Being a staff writer for several publications and a member of most travel writer associations with a highly visible email address, I’m the recipient of dozens of media releases per day. If ever I leave my cellphone at home for longer than half a day, my inbox is bombarded by over a hundred of these ‘important news bulletins’, all of them ‘urgently’ awaiting my attention.
While I’m annoyed to be receiving so many of these – most of them are irrelevant and more like spam – what frustrates me more is how ineffectual they are in getting the message across.
For one, there’s the ‘boy who cried wolf’ notion at play here. That is, when everything is crucial or ‘for immediate release’ then nothing ends up resonating as truly indispensable. And don’t even get me started on how public relations teams use the word ‘embargo’ – something that should be reserved for nations trying to stop the flow of nuclear arms and definitely not for trying to control reporters from trumpeting daily happenings to the masses.
Next, many of these releases are bogged down by chunky paragraphs foaming over with excessive rhetoric. Not only does this make the piece harder to read, but it also exudes a feeling of anxiety – that the actual facts aren’t important enough and you need flowery prose to disguise their insignificance. Nowadays – and to be as pragmatic as I am pessimistic – people just don’t care, and they don’t even have the time to try and care!
Stop writing drivel
So tell your PR team and agencies to stop wasting your money on drivel. You don’t need a release for every new assistant executive who joins your team followed by six more paragraphs as support with fake quotes from other senior managers. Nor should you be compelled to announce that your property just won some dubious buy-an-ad-and-get-an-award distinction, again trailed by an obscene quantity of boilerplate puffery about your hotel.
I implore you to look at what has been sent on your property’s behalf over the past year and assess what actually has substance. Here’s a way to do it:
Ideally you want brevity, personality and relevancy.
Moving forward, any press releases would start with a personalized address within the email to get the recipient’s attention.
Then use no more than a couple of paragraphs to state the essentials and their importance. Everything can be boiled down, and then it is the media agency’s job to decide whether it’s worth investigating further.
Below this core story, give an email and phone number for contact information as well as a PDF attachment of the full release.
While there is no value in a release unless it gets published, what should also be taken into consideration is how you follow up with any media earmarked as highly relevant for this particular news item. Are you phoning these individuals? What process do you have in place to reach out to see what types of stories these media companies want? Moreover, what protocols do you have in place for when a reporter bothers to request additional information or an interview?
While people aren’t as avid these days to read, a good way to get their attention is through imagery. Releases about an individual must contain a profile picture. Ditto for events or anything F&B-related, all of which can help to draw the eyes.
Don’t forget the headline
Last, while I may be implying that you deemphasize the words in your release, the one aspect that you can never overlook is your headline. This is the most important part of your release because it may be all that a viewer reads before hitting the delete button. Hence, something with a sense of mystery, a question or even a witticism will help to get more eyeballs onto your actual release. Following a headline brainstorm, you might even want to A/B test different lines to gauge the differential response.
Ultimately, your focus should be on quality rather than quantity. Remember, there is no reward for the distribution, only for media pick-up, so aim to set a new bar. More often than not, less truly is more.