Every week, key company executives receive emails from their marketing and communications teams with press releases attached for review. No doubt these documents elicit groans at times. More than one managing partner or president has thought, “Do these things ever generate any business, or are we just spinning our wheels?” The question at prima facie is not unreasonable. After all, a lot of time goes into writing, editing and disseminating these documents.
While PR styles differ in many aspects, the press release itself tends to follow a fairly simple formula:
Headline – Factual introduction of release, needs to include firm name and (if applicable) name of individual involved.
Paragraph one – Who, what, where, when, how and why.
Paragraph two – Often a quote from senior company official offering commentary.
Body paragraph(s) – More explanation of the event/and or individual involved.
Issuer Description – Who the issuing organization is and what they do.
In an ideal world, a press release clocks in at 300-500 words. Press releases have never been a vehicle designed for calling an organization “great” or “first-class.” They are fact-driven documents with a sliver of strategic commentary included via the quote. Every statement should be verifiable and direct.
The reason for this sort of rigidity is that different readers are looking for different things:
Media – They generally use only the information in paragraph one.
Alumni Organizations –They generally use paragraph one and school-specific information found in the body copy.
General Public – The entire release. This is why, while you shouldn’t expect the media to run the release’s quote, you should anticipate clients and potential clients will be reading it. Also, this is why both the body paragraph’s firm-specific portion and the release’s boilerplate content matter.
(It should be noted that releases for publicly traded companies that could materially affect a company are entirely different from those in discussion.)
But, who really reads this stuff?
Press releases, absent a compelling reason, are rarely read by the general public. However, when doing due diligence on an organization, they are essential vetting material. The value of a well-crafted, strategic press release may not manifest itself for months or years. Consider, however, the alternative wherein a firm de-values these sorts of communications. That firm’s website will provide a great deal less content, leading some to think that it either: a) is not being proactive in marketing the organization; or b) is a place where nothing seems to happen.
Press releases also serve a vital role in helping to keep an organization’s name in circulation, both with the public and the media. Being proactive about promoting partner elevations, office openings and expansions and awards garnered, keep a firm’s name in front of key editors and reporters. It is not uncommon for a press release to either: a) lead to a story about an organization; or b) see a new company member suddenly tapped by a reporter for commentary.
PR has changed a great deal since we first opened our doors 23 years ago. However, a core deliverable of the profession remains as valuable as ever. While certainly not as glamorous as being quoted in the New York Times, press releases are fundamental to an organization’s well-being and well worth the effort.