I emailed a public relations professional the other day to ask if I could speak to the local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
"Can I come and talk to PRSA again about how to get noticed and how to get ignored?" I wrote. "I have been so frustrated recently by emailed announcements and releases that are incredibly unhelpful. ... I can bring examples!"
This is an Opinion
Now, Arkansas Business readers certainly know that stories pitched by what we affectionately call "flacks" aren't all we write. And sending out a press release to every reporter in the state is a great way to make sure your news will be treated as a commodity. (If I'm going to engage in pack journalism, I want to be the leader of the pack. Give your business news to Arkansas Business first and let the others follow.)
But there are parts of this printed product - especially the "Movers & Shakers" feature - that depend on PR practitioners, the very ones my readers are paying. And I can tell you that some of them are wasting their time, my time and your money. Here are some tips for making your PR efforts more likely to bear the kind of fruit you want:
- Help me help you. The Arkansas Business staff watches for new hires, promotions, personal awards and officer elections wherever that news crops up, but nothing is more effective than the direct approach. Submit the news at ArkansasBusiness.com or email me directly at GMoritz@ABPG.com.
- More than 300 emails pass through my mailbox every weekday. It isn't your job to make my life easier, but neither does it serve your interest to make it harder for me to spot the news in your email. I'm sure I speak for press release recipients all over the globe when I suggest that you paste the text in the body of the email rather than (or in addition to) attaching it to the email.
- I sometimes suspect that the people writing press releases are charging by the word. Most press releases I see are much longer than they need to be. I don't mind getting 500 words on a new bank vice president, but please understand that we're still going to boil it down to a couple of sentences. Unless the same press release is also being sent to some very small newspapers that really will reprint it verbatim, a lot of time and effort are being wasted.
- On the other hand, there is such a thing as too little information. We recently had to run a correction that could have been avoided - and much time and frustration could have been saved all around - if the company had included even basic information in the original announcement. More is not necessarily better, but better information is better.
- If we're producing a sizable story, we're going to assign a photographer to take pictures just for our use. But on small announcements, like new hires or new products, think about providing us with photos or other art elements (logos, architectural drawings, etc.). You're welcome to send whatever you like, but here's a word to the wise: We won't be using your amateur snapshot of 14 people or your giant scissors cutting a ribbon. Believe me on this: Professional portraits of key executives and new hires are a good business investment.
- Don't try to dazzle me, and don't feel compelled to do my job for me. I recently received a press release that really was a pre-written feature story about a company. It went on for 800 rhapsodic words about all the great Arkansas companies this business has managed to attract as customers.
I have no idea how many hours were put into writing it, but I know how many minutes I spent trying in vain to figure out where this business was located. I initially dismissed it as an out-of-state company trying to sound relevant to Arkansas Business, but it turns out that the company actually is in Fayetteville - a fact that wasn't included in those 800 words. It does sound like a story worth sharing with Arkansas Business readers - but when we do, we'll do the reporting and writing ourselves.
The company's president really should have sent me an email saying, "Hey, Gwen, I wonder if you realized just how many customers - nearby and far away - are using the service provided by our startup company up here in Fayetteville. It's really going gangbusters, and I'd love to talk with you or a reporter about how much we've grown."