It may seem counterintuitive, but not endorsing the client in a press release is one of the best ways to get them coverage. Editors – at least the good ones – want their publications to have genuine news value and be objective, otherwise they know that their title is in danger of becoming little more than an ad rag which no one takes seriously. News desk chiefs are also under pressure to generate revenue, so any release you send to them that reads like an advertorial often just gets forwarded directly to the sales team, resulting in unwanted telesales approaches for you or your client.
The simple truth is that a press release must be well written, well structured and objective if it’s even going to get a look in. Obviously, there are factors that will help it get picked up, such as a slow news day and having a good personal relationship with the journalist you are sending it to, but the bottom line is that no reputable outlet is going to use your release if it comes over as a marketing pitch.
My experience thus far in the industry has taught me five objectivity guidelines you should adopt when writing a press release:
- Avoid superlatives about the client, their product or services, outside of quotes. As soon as editors see the words “…leading company” or “…renowned brand,” they will view it as an advertorial and the chances of it getting picked up plummet.
- Include facts if they are helpful. Facts are not opinions. If the client you are writing for is the world’s largest producer of ceramic products, then say so. If they have won awards for customer service, then by all means mention it. You are being objective here, not subjective.
- Consider downgrading your client to the status of one of secondary importance in the release, not the prime focus. If they are involved in an event, make the event taking place the main message. You can then use this to ‘piggyback’ information about your client midway through the release. This method often gets under the radar of editors who are concerned about running obvious advertorials.
- Use quotes to let the client sing their own praises. This way you are promoting them but still maintaining objectivity – you are being objective by merely reporting what the client says.
- Explain the importance of objectivity to any marketing manager who is tempted to tinker and insert promotional text into your release when you send it for their approval. An open and honest dialogue is the only way to resolve issues.
The following link takes you to what I think is one of the best PR pieces I have ever read, even if it is a few years old now. It discusses how Kelly Brook, a British actress, believed she was going to drown on the set of Fishtale, a movie she was making.
The film had bombed with critics, but the simple expedient of creating a mini-drama involving the movie lead was enough to piggyback publicity for the film in one of the UK’s best read newspapers. It didn’t matter whether in reality she was at risk of coming to any harm, all she had to say was that she believed she was. Notice too how the paper was able to gloss over the poor response to the film by making her feelings the paramount aspect and by turning a negative reaction into a not-so-positive reaction, thereby diluting the magnitude of its failure:
“It has not had a rapturous reception from the critics in Cannes, but Kelly insists she loved making Fishtales.”
And it’s still an objective piece. Now that’s the way to get great coverage.