Happening right now…
New tonight at ten…
You’ve probably heard these phrases if you’ve watched a newscast. They’re used to grab attention, get people to stop scrolling on their phones, making dinner or falling asleep on the couch – basically saying, “HEY! Look at your TV! This is new, different and important!”
So why am I telling you this? As a former journalist, I’m often tapped to share insight into how newsrooms function to help clients get better coverage. And, news flash, some of the old “best practices” aren’t the best anymore. Why? Because just like almost every other business, newsrooms are short staffed. According to this article by the Poynter Institute, a leading resource for the journalism industry, more than 100 local newsrooms closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, the remaining newsrooms have fewer staff members than usual but are still required to put out the same number of newscasts, newspapers, blogs, vlogs, social media posts and web articles.
So which best practices are still best, and which ones are evolving? Here’s my take on a few.
Myth 1: Don’t send video if you want media to come to your event.
I recently had a debate with a group of former journalists who are now PR pros about this one. There’s a longstanding idea that if you want journalists to cover your event, don’t send them video or pictures with the press release. WRONG.
Just like I talked about a few paragraphs ago, many newsrooms, especially those is small or medium-sized markets, are scraping to get by everyday with low staffing. That means only the big stuff gets covered, unless the news gods grace you with a slow news day. I’ve personally had great success sending video with a press release and increased coverage rates for clients with this tactic.
Moral of the story: make it as easy as possible for journalists to cover your information. Additionally, you may want to consider sending an initial press release prior to the event and then follow up with a recap email that includes pictures, videos and quotes. There’s a good chance those assets will end up in a newscast or paper. Here at Flint Group, we have a dedicated and talented content team that creates moments for clients. More and more, companies are using this team to capture moments and gain more attention.
Myth 2: Send a press release far in advance so newsrooms can plan to attend.
This concept comes from the good ole’ days of journalism when stories were planned out in advance and nothing new happened after 6 p.m. Gone are those days. Now, thanks to technology and society’s 24/7 lifestyle, newsrooms adapt and change stories hourly. Long story short, for most local news outlets, it doesn’t matter if you send your press release one day in advance or one week in advance. You’ll still get as much or as little coverage as they decide.
That said, don’t send a press release one hour in advance unless it is truly a last minute, breaking news situation.
There is one caveat to my above recommendation. If you’re pitching to trade magazines who need to travel to an event, they would appreciate a longer heads up to accommodate travel plans, and the notice period could affect whether they attend.
Myth 3: Making your press release feel formal to appear like an intelligent thought leader.
Friends, here’s my plea to you: Write. Like. You. Talk.
Even if you’re a world-renowned scientist who cures mankind of terrible diseases, don’t use big, fancy lingo. Conversational writing and speaking are the easiest way to connect with journalists and the public. Companies often want to use field-specific terminology to sound more intelligent to their peers. But press releases aren’t for peers. They’re for the public. Plus, journalists are going to convert your jargon-filled press releases into conversational laymen’s terms anyway, so why not do it for them and make sure it’s translated correctly? You’ll thank yourself when you spend less time calling newsrooms for corrections.