Why Your New Startup Needs an Old School Press Release

News Release is the New Name for a Press Release

What's under the wraps of the new and improved Press Release?

I got news for ya. The press release is not dead; it just got a better agent and underwent a makeover to keep up with the young crowd. Ready for its big reveal?

Presenting…(HTML drum roll please)…the News Release. Tah dah!

What’s the difference? A few consonants.

Well, that and a more modern delivery method. No more faxing. I know, amazing right?

People, please. Press release, News Release. You say potato, I say P Diddy.

You can change names all you want, the content is still the same. And if you work for a startup, you should know that the content, handled correctly, can still get your company’s name in the press. 

Get In with the In Crowd

Do a Google search on the topic and you’ll find articles like “Die Press Release, Die” and “RIP, the Press Release.” These stories all claim that Twitter, blogs and YouTube have replaced the press release as a method for reaching journalist.

All the cool people and social media pundits seem to think that the old school press release is now akin to Charlie Sheen’s “winning” mantra, tired and pointless.

But the fact is that whether you Tweeted your way into the minds of journalists, or got their attention when your company’s blender pureed a rake on YouTube, once you have the attention of the media, you still have to deliver the goods.

And the goods are a concisely worded pitch that leads with facts, wrapped in a newsworthy hook, followed by the pertinent details and proper sources.

AKA a press release.

Call it a news release if you want to. Call it a pitch if you have to. Just be sure you call it an important part of your company’s communication plan.

Press Release is the Meat of your Communcation Plan

Where’s the meat?

Meat, Meet Potato

YouTube videos, social media and guerilla tactics—they’re all important parts of a balanced communication campaign. But don’t confuse your veggies with your protein.

These tactics are only the leafy greens that get your message moving through the system.

The meat of your message is found in the content of a traditional release. And the journalists will need that meat to complete the meal.

An Exercise in Utility

To write a good release, or pitch, you need to remember two things:

  1. the media needs your help
  2. the media does not work for you.

Reporters may not be in the business of promoting your compnay, but they are in the business of finding good content. Good, timely, newsworthy content. Hold the fluff. If you can give them that, your story will get covered.

The best way to insure that your message meets those criteria is to craft your message to fit the old school press release format. Answer who, what, when, where and why, while giving the journalist a reason to be interested.

Sarah Needleman of the Walls Street Journal said the best way to get her attention is to skip the small talk.

In a HARO (Help a Reporter Out) telecourse on how to get the attention of the media, Needleman said to make your point in the first sentence and be brief. If you can get your entire message across in three paragraphs, all the better.

All the journalists on the call agreed. They want to be pitched concisely with the answers to these questions:

  • What’s your angle for the story
  • What’s the news hook
  • What’s the background
  • Why is it relevant to their audience

Your Just Desserts – Benefits Beyond the Press Release

Besides needing the information found in a release to close the deal with your journalist, the act of writing a release is a fantastic way to hone your message. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Your first paragraph is a distillation of your talking points. Use it to keep a laser focus on what you’re trying to communicate.

Your information packed, clever headline is a Tweet waiting to take flight.

And the background material and expert quotes can be repurposed on your company blog.

The concept of a press release may be old school, but it’s still the best way to educate the media. And the best first step in your communication plan. Don’t let the pundits tell you otherwise.

Working for Wonka? Know this: Will a traditional, old school press release alone get you booked on the Today Show? By itself, probably not. Does that mean you shouldn’t write one? Definitely not.

For a super user-friendly, super free press release template, check out Get Help. Still having trouble grasping the concept? Want more tips on how to get your name in the press? Consider booking a Coffee and a Nudge session with me.

What’s your experience? Are you still using press releases?