Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bad PR people…bad.

It’s a constant refrain. Unfortunately, it’s often true that PR folks are driven (either by their firm, their client, or their lack of experience) to pitch anyone and everyone each time they have an announcement to make. Problem is, not every announcement is news. That’s not to say it’s not something that is press release worthy, these are two very different things. The way we look at press releases at Connect2 is pretty simple.
  • Tier 1 Release – Major company news ( e.g., new flagship product, major customer win, acquisition, investment round, new C-level executive, etc, ) or news that is particularly relevant giving an ongoing or emerging trend in the market place. With a Tier 1, we prefer to pre-brief if possible. Analysts a couple weeks out and press that cover the market or the company are pitched so they have time, if they want, to talk to customers, analysts, influencers, to tell a complete story.
  • Tier 2 Release – Mid-major company news that is important to the company but not necessarily to the broader market in general (e.g., product upgrade, company milestone release, expansion of certain company partnerships, etc.). With Tier 2, we like to pre-brief as well but focus only on the analysts and reporters that cover the company. We’re trying to provide an update on company progress with these types of releases so folks that cover the broader market probably won’t care…so, we don’t pitch them. They will get the release when it crosses the wire as an FYI in case it peaks an interest but we don’t pitch.
  • Tier 3 Release – This is low-key news that helps the client tell its broader story but isn’t newsworthy. There are lots of releases that fall into this category and because what we’re really trying to do is connect directly with key audiences, we write these a bit differently. They are still press releases (Headline, sub-head, dateline, etc.) and they go across the wire but we don’t pitch on it. With Tier 3, we write the release in a more general feature style instead of the traditional inverted pyramid a traditional release is written in. We rely on the wire service, and affiliated news aggregators, to get this story out directly to readers.

Here’s the key point to this blog…with each tier, we’re pitching people we know cover the market or cover the company. Sure, we make mistakes, especially if we’re moving into a market where we don’t know the pubs or reporters particularly well. And sometimes, magazines aren’t that good about updating who is covering what so we pitch folks that used to cover a certain beat but are now moving on to something else. It happens. When it does, we apologize and update our lists. We consider our press lists living documents and rely on several sources, as well as our own weekly call downs, to keep our lists as accurate as possible.

Yes, there are services you can use, and we use some of them, to find the right person for the right story, but the best way to find out what someone is writing about is to research the reporter and read the publication they write for…on a regular basis. It’s not only a great way to find out who is writing about what, but what their particular interest in the topic is, what they’ve covered so far and what part of the story they might not have told yet.

One of the complaints I hear most from PR people about reporters is how someone “got a story wrong,” or “clearly didn’t do their research…”. Well, I think we owe the reporters the same due diligence. Everyone knows that magazines are short staffed and that the news is more immediate today than ever before. Help them do their job by doing yours.

My two cents, more to come.

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