Fida Chaaban, Chief Communications Officer, KBW Investments offers her thoughts on the reasons why press releases get ignored and gives easy to follow rules on how to avoid this…
“Communications professionals, your client’s worthwhile news is being sidelined because your overall messaging – whether or not the client has imposed this on your conceptual development – is often convoluted or incomplete.”
Having spent a decade and a half as a Journalist and as someone who’s still actively engaged in the media space, here are three of my no-brainer aspects to avoid when dealing with the press.
Although this piece is very opinion-based and has no established metric to draw on, I am able to confirm that many of my journalist friends and former colleagues agree with me on the following points.
Communications professionals, your client’s worthwhile news is being sidelined because your overall messaging – whether or not the client has imposed this on your conceptual development – is often convoluted or incomplete.
Currently, as the Chief Communications Officer at KBW Investments, I deal with a wide range of our portfolio companies and I can assure you that despite the very huge difference between heavy machinery (Raimondi Cranes) and hospitality (Novotel Expo Sharjah), these three rules have held true for all our messaging efforts.
I’m going to use some examples from press releases that people have sent me in the past as good benchmarks to land the right type of press attention. (And for those wondering why I’m not using bad examples as the “don’t” list, it’s because I don’t think naming and shaming is productive.)
Jargon and fluff
If I open up a press release and I can’t figure out what it really means in the first four lines, I’m gearing up to hit delete. Remember that an editor’s job is to process the information you’re sharing and regurgitate things of interest with some decent rounding out of the material. Your client’s “vision” followed by a whole slew of industry-specific descriptors is often very alienating. Take it down a notch! The journalists who specialise in this specific type of reporting will use the jargon (if and when) it’s appropriate in the generated coverage. Don’t alienate the rest of your mailing list by imposing it on the already-overextended media in the actual release. CompareIt4Me avoids inaccessible language and chatter particularly well. Despite being a startup that works in the financial space, the company uses very accessible language that journalists with elementary financial literacy can process.
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to get coverage in a B2B or a mass title, print, web or both. Images are always appreciated by editors who have neither the time (and often lack the resources) to source a visual for your piece. Try as hard as you possibly can to ensure you are providing the media with proper resolution images in landscape and in portrait formats. Another quick tip, don’t send the extreme high resolution set in an email, instead offer the Editor a clean download link for larger shots. But your “client doesn’t like pictures”? Then your client doesn’t like big glossy coverage. You are more likely to get nice placement if you supply relevant, solid imagery. Mojo PR once pitched a businessperson to me during my time as EIC of Entrepreneur MENA. They supplied stellar bio images that ultimately landed the client the cover of Entrepreneur Qatar. This was a cold-call pitch from an account executive I had never dealt with and she really delivered in spades.
An ongoing barrage of press releases about your client’s social calendar and public appearances is both ridiculous and ineffectual. Let me be clear, no one cares. Let me be even more clear, such memos start to give the media the idea that your client is desperate for attention and increasingly irrelevant – quite the opposite of what your objectives are, I’m sure. While I know that some clients just won’t take no for an answer, save yourself from the spam folder by pushing back as much as you can. As a Journalist and Editor, some PR people were marked spam by me after the third time I received nonsense of this sort. Your client visiting their own offices in Bangkok, for example, is not press-worthy (even if you have high resolution imagery and even if a whole list of dignitaries was present). Your client presenting an award internally to one of the company employees also qualifies as an immediate delete, so do all the do-gooder press releases like ‘We donated X amount of money to the worker’s association’ – you get the idea. In this regard, I have numerous good examples. Based on my experience, the Four Seasons never communicates unless they have a pretty relevant announcement, although hospitality editors might have a different view of this. Similarly, financial institutions like banks – except for one that I know of – by and large, communicate with restraint and relevance as well.
Editors reading this may be thinking that I forgot to mention frequency, length and coherence, in addition to a slew of other unattractive communication “don’ts”. For the purposes of length, I restricted this list to three easy to avoid rules of thumb. Feel free to tweet your opinions at me @Fida and I look forward to hearing from you.