Because just 3% to 45% of releases actually get the word out
PR professionals have been married to the traditional PR writing approach since Ivy Lee created the news release more than 100 years ago.
Why, then, do we need a new approach?
With an estimated 3,000 releases going out over the wires each day — that’s one every 29 seconds — the impact of your traditional PR piece ain’t what it used to be.
In fact, fewer than 50% of all traditional PR pieces ever get covered, according to PR Newswire’s own research. Dennis L. Wilcox and Lawrence W. Nolte, authors of Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, go further. They estimate that some 55% to 97% of all PR pieces sent to media outlets are never used.
Most releases aren’t relevant to the reader.
Most journalists receive more than 50 releases a day, according to a survey by Greentarget. But most of those releases don’t focus on usefulness to readers:
- Most trade magazine editors surveyed said fewer than half of the releases they receive are relevant to their publication, according to a survey by Thomas Rankin Associates.
- 65% to 75% of city editors surveyed believed press releases promote “products, services and other activities that don’t legitimately deserve promotion,” write Wilcox and Nolte.
- No wonder journalists’ biggest pet peeves are releases that don’t pertain to their beats or aren’t relevant to the audiences they serve, according to the Greentarget survey.
ust listen to Jeremy Porter, digital communications strategist. “I recently got a message from a reporter working at a small local paper who received 80 press releases in one day. Of them, only two were relevant to the information his paper covers.”
As a result, according to Greentarget, 70% of journalists spend less than one minute on the average release. And just 34% of journalists find story ideas in releases.
(One quarter of journalists find quotes to be the least important element in the release — after the dateline and boilerplate.)
Help reporters reach their readers.
So how can PR and communications professionals create successful PR pieces that are among the 3% to 45% of those that actually get the word out?
By thinking like a reporter — and like a reporter’s reader — to develop story angles that are relevant, valuable and interesting. (This approach works for blog posts, social media and email pitches, as well as good PR pieces. In fact, it’s the key to effective PR writing skills.)
Just listen to what journalists say:
- “Present the key element that explains how your story can benefit Forbes readers,” counsels Bruce Upbin, senior editor at Forbes.
- “There’s nothing wrong with a story about a new product,” says Stephany Romanow-Garcia, senior process editor at Hydrocarbon Processing. “But readers want to know, ‘How am I going to use it?’ I’m not interested in ‘new and improved.’”
- “What I really like about a [press release],” says one trade journal editor quoted in Public Relations Tactics, “is when it scratches my reader’s itch and not your client’s itch.”
Help reporters reach their readers and drive engagement: Stop writing in the passive voice about “us and our stuff.” Instead, write about what the reporter’s target audience can do differently with your products, services, programs and ideas.