What DOESN'T make a news story

Posted on: 2012-06-10 in How To   |   Tagged: media release news release newsworthy definition press release

The definition of newsworthiness, by @TopLineFounder

While a press release offers a format for announcing news to the media, it needs to be said that just because you announce something in a press release, doesn’t mean it is news. In fact, I am prepared to go out on a limb here and say that the vast majority of press releases hold absolutely no news value at all – and don’t result in any (quality) coverage!

Dealing with this misconception from the business community is probably one of the most frustrating things about working in B2B PR and I die a little inside every time a client says something like ‘just PR it,’ or I get a phonecall from a prospective client saying ‘I’ve written a press release, how much will you charge to get some journalists to run it?’ This approach demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of media relations and completely devalues the hard work that goes on behind the scenes at a PR consultancy tasked with delivering consistent media coverage on behalf of a client.

One of the biggest challenges facing any B2B executive (I refer mainly to those working in or running SMEs here as the rules are slightly different for larger, listed companies) when engaging in PR is the need to come to terms with the reality that what they think is their biggest story could well be of no interest to the media.  Here are some common examples of non-stories:

We have won an award.

Congratulations, but this is not a story. Thousands of companies win awards each year, and most media / publications run their own industry awards so don’t want to publicise the one you won off a competitor! Instead, you should take the piece of work that won you the award and turn it into a case study (it will certainly be an example of best practice) that can then be pitched as an exclusive to some of your top target media.

Our business growth has out-paced the industry.

This is fantastic, but growing quickly is not in itself news. However, why not contact some of the publications that run business profiles (if they don’t run them as standard they will not make an exception for you, so don’t bother) and ask if they are interested in featuring you? If they are, they won’t want a press release, they will want an interview.

We have a new director.

Great, but unless they are famous, they don’t warrant a press release. Instead, why not contact the editors of the ‘movers and shakers’ pages of your top three industry mags and ask them directly if they are interested? If they are, they will most likely just want a paragraph, a CV and a photo.  

We are launching a new service.

Unless this service is revolutionary (and you are not the best judge of that I’m afraid) it’s of no interest until you have proven it.  

We have a new website.

Good on you – and it’s probably long overdue. But have you ever seen the headline ‘small company launches new website’ in a newspaper?

We are opening a new office.

Again, well done. Your business is expanding, which is a sure sign of success. However, no matter how beautiful your turn of phrase, unfortunately, this media release still says nothing more than ‘small business can now be found on Tottenham Court Road, not Victoria Street.’

We are doing something charitable.

This is great for your reputation and excellent for staff morale. But did you know that in the financial year to April 2012 UK charities raised almost £60bn? If being charitable was newsworthy, then the papers would have no room to cover anything else (find out more about charity video production). 

We are announcing our Q1 financial results.

Unless you are a publicly listed company with thousands of shares traded on an exchange, your financial results are simply of no interest. There are four million companies in the UK – if financial results were news, then that’s 16 million stories a year.

We are exhibiting at a trade show.

And so are 300 other companies! Don’t get me started on trade shows.

Please, don’t misunderstand me – I am not saying that these are not excellent achievements – they are, and they should certainly be celebrated and communicated to all your stakeholders. All I’m saying is that the press release is not the format for doing this. I highly recommend you make these announcements on your website, refer to them in your mail-outs and use them to encourage engagement from the communities you are building on social networks. Furthermore, many of these ‘announcements’ mask excellent stories or angles that could generate truly valuable coverage if presented to journalists in the appropriate format.  That format is not the press release.

Browse our other posts on using press releases to gain coverage.

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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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