If You Want Press, Don’t Send A Press Release

As you’ve been reading, I spent last week at the 2009 SES San Jose conference.  I attended the event as a member of the press and covered panel sessions for the Online Marketing Blog (and shared some with you here).

And as a member of the press, my contact information was on a media list shared with event attendees, sponsors, other marketers, etc.  With this came a slew of press releases I’ve been receieving in the weeks leading up to the conference, during the conference itself and after.  None of this is very surprising and is standard to happen for bloggers or press attending an event in any industry, not just marketing.

This brings me to what I want to discuss today to help you make this process better.  Being on both sides of the fence (a digital marketer and blogger) provides insight in both directions.

Before getting further into this, I want to say two things up front:

  • Press releases are not dead and still serve a function, but that function is for wire service distribution, not email or one-to-one.
  • I’m happy to write on companies and do so frequently – I fully embrace the PR-blogger relationship, (go ask Shutterstock, one of the few companies to approach me intelligently) but a press release as an introduction probably won’t make it very far.

With that said, I invite businesses, PR pros and marketers to send press releases directly.  I do read all of them.  But if you actually want me to spend time writing about your product, service or company don’t send me a press release.  Not once have I written a story based off an unsolicited press release that was emailed.  Why?  Two main reasons:

1.  Press releases are not original content

We all know the release you just sent has been sent to countless others – and as bloggers we are most interested in unique/original content and untold stories.  A press release (unless I am the first one to receive it) does not satisfy any of these things.

2.  Press releases are informal

Something easily forgotten these days is that blogs are social media.  And press releases are not social, they are overly refined technical documents which are cookie-cutter.  They are perfect for wire services because they are designed to work within a system, but not for one-to-one or pitching.  Good pitching is as much relationship building as it is adding value and providing something compelling.  Again I’m fine with reading your press release you send me directly, but that is where it will stop.

It’s not just the format, it’s the approach

I have written stories based off press release content previously (see how to choose an online marketing or PR agency as one example which quotes a good bit from a release).

Here’s the key to why that was worth covering aside from being good content:  I stumbled upon it through another publication referencing the original release.

The fact that Marketing Vox covered the story, and I as a marketing blogger read the story meant that I saw the reference to the release content.  The content was compelling enough to inspire a story idea, but I only saw it because an authoritative marketing publication picked it up from the wire – it wasn’t pushed on me.

See how that worked?

If the company who issued the release (Sapient) had sent it directly to me would I have covered it?  It’s the same content, but to be honest I would have read it and glossed over it if it was emailed to me.  It’s just so much more powerful to come across compelling content organically than to have it unartfully forced upon a blogger.

Remember, as a blogger with a day job I don’t make media for a living.  I’m writing here willfully and without being paid, thus I have the luxury to write on whatever I find interesting and nothing else.  Unlike a reporter or traditional journalist I don’t necessarily need your content because I don’t need to write here.  If I have nothing of interest to say, I won’t write anything as I don’t have a quota I need to meet on this blog, your press release is not filling a void.

Solutions for public relations professionals to succeed:

Pull PR

Get me to stumble-upon your content naturally, and if it’s that good I will react/respond.  This isn’t sending a press release directly.  That’s so much less powerful than me stumbling upon the content on my own.  I’m likely to write on things I come across that are interesting because it’s part of my natural process of finding and reacting to information.  It’s push vs. pull, and pull always wins from a digital PR standpoint.

Develop relationships

Wire services are one approach for covering a wide spread.  If you want to take a surgical approach and reach specific people, publish in-kind.  What I mean by this is write something on your own blog and tag me/link me in your post.  I’m far more likely to respond that way if what you wrote warrants a response, whether we have an existing relationship or not.

If you want me (or any one blogger in particular) to write on your business or client by emailing me or contacting me directly, you should probably work on forming a relationship.  Relationships – even a step further – having a digital reputation matters in the social web, you can only ever be so effective without one.

A quote from Jeremiah Owyang sums up blogger relations nicely, even if he didn’t intend for it to describe it:

“Those who ignore the party/conversation/network when they are content and decide to drop in when they need the network may not succeed. It’s pretty easy to spot those that are just joining the network purely to take –not to give. Therefore, be part of the party/conversation/network before you need anything from anyone.”

Further resources from The Future Buzz on blogger relations:

This Is How You Pitch A Blogger

Sustainable Web PR Requires Relationships

20 Tips for Pitching Bloggers

Blogger Relations: Two Approaches For PR

image credit: R. dani3315 via Shutterstock