"I know the fundamentals of a press release. But, I wonder about the practical philosophy behind it. Do you need press releases to get news coverage? Are there principles to follow that makes an editor treasure a press release instead of trash it?"
I invited Jami Ruth as a guest blogger to answer this question. Before she joined the communications team at Granger, she spent several years as an account executive and media relations rep at a local ad agency. She's been the driving force behind organizing our press strategy and strengthening our two-way relationship with our media outlets. Here's how Jami answered...
"No strategy is a bad strategy. So rather than ignore the media or worse yet, bombard them with self-centered tidbits, our strategy is to ask ourselves a few questions before we ever send out a news release.
- Why? Every contact with the media is an opportunity to tell our (God’s) story. If we're doing something worth talking about...people will talk. It’s not publicity for publicity’s sake. Awareness is not the win. The win is interest that compels people to give God or church a chance. While media publicity can effectively help with that at times (it's like free advertising) we are never in control of the message. We can provide talking points but reporters don't accept "scripts." We're ok with that, though. It's authentic.
- What? We want to be proactive with the media, but only send out news releases for events that are truly newsworthy and of interest to the general population. Events that qualify impact a practical community need; physical (feed the hungry), emotional (marriage or family series) or intellectual (job seeker workshop). The news isn't "here's what we're doing." The news is "here's how the community is going to be different and here's ways you can be a part of that." If we send out a large volume of releases, we're adding noise--not value. Noise gets ignored.
- How? It's important to build a trustworthy consistent rapport with the local media. It's a two-way relationship. They trust us because we respect their time and guarantee a consistent, professional contact person who puts them in touch with the right spokesperson at the right time. We do that by centralizing media publicity and routing inquiries through the communications team. Not only are we able to time the volume and release dates to make sure they're appropriate and newsworthy, we're also able to work with the senior management team to select best spokesperson person for interviews, quotes, etc. (The communications team isn't the spokesperson. That's not our job.) To help equip anyone involved with interviews, we developed a spokesperson tip sheet.