By Jeannette Bitz
As the summer season quickly winds down, it’s the time of year when marketing and PR professionals plan for their final 2016 PR and marketing push. The last four months of the year are often the busiest and most critical period for a company and thus for public relations professionals. Companies that have held back or limited issuing press news during the summers months quickly ramp up come September (after the Labor Day holiday in the U.S.). They start issuing a steady clip of news ahead of big trade shows, industry events or even big customer meetings because it’s important that they gain some visibility and validation for their products and services, and highlight company momentum. In addition, many companies start to plan for one of or all of the major trade shows that take place in Q1, starting with the Computer Electronic Show (CES), Mobile World Congress and the RSA Conference.
Not surprisingly, every company ramps up its press release schedule now, putting pressure on their public relation firms to get that big hit or massive coverage. The problem with this approach is that you’re not the only one doing this. Large brands historically debut their latest and greatest in September; see Apple’s press conference scheduled for September 7. Leading up to this event and after, most of the media world is speculating, critiquing and providing their own unique analysis on why the latest iPhone will either be the success or demise of Apple. Apple is not alone in making a major announcement in the fall. Thousands of other tech companies are implementing the exact approach that you are. To make it even harder to stand out, there are simply far more companies and PR people than there are journalists who cover the news.
While I realize the importance of issuing press releases to communicate critical information to your audience (not just the media), here’s what you can do if you want to drive broader awareness of your press release.
- Make sure your release is really newsworthy (outside of your company). The simple truth is that while your press release is news to your company and maybe your customers, that doesn’t mean it will be viewed as news by a major media outlet. Some milestones are better suited for blog posts, or if a story has an interesting technical angle, for an exclusive in one of the trade outlets. Be smart and strategic about your release strategy.
- Be clear on what the headline is, with limited jargon and technical specifications. Clearly articulate how your news is a first or unique for the industry or your target customers. This one should be obvious, but we often find that clients spend so much time weaving in their messaging and technical jargon that the release has limited news value. Reporters are bombarded with releases and only pick up those that are interesting, well written and not self-serving.
- Get the release in front of the right reporters before it crosses the wire. Sometimes reporters will be willing to speak with you under embargo, which gives them more time to write their article and will ultimately result in stronger coverage that will help amplify your story.
- Customers are a big draw. Ask customers to provide quotes in your release and if possible talk to reporters, if you want to get the attention of the media. Customers will help you articulate the business benefit of your offering and will bring more credibility to your story.
- Include interesting data and customer perspective that support your announcement. Bulletized points are easy to ‘lift’ for an article. Customer surveys and industry analyst reports bring more credibility to your announcement and give reporters other resources that will help them write a broader story. If the data does come from an analyst firm, be sure to source what analyst and firm the data came from.
- Anticipate and research dates for upcoming major news events, especially events by major tech or consumer brands such as Apple, and don’t issue your big announcement on those days. If you truly have a unique point of view or qualified data that will support a reporter’s efforts to write a story on this major news event, then you may be the exception to this rule. If not, hold off your press release to a later date. We’re telling Engage PR’s clients that they should not issue news during the week leading up to and on the day that Apple is expected to announce its next iPhone.
- Consider the timeliness of your announcement. For example, if you have great data about sales of mobile devices during a holiday season, know that your insight has a short shelf life, two to three weeks, maximum. If you issue your release after that season, don’t be surprised if the media decides it’s no longer newsworthy or relevant.
- Avoid the trade-show barrage. While companies want to use trade shows to attract media and analysts to their booths, the shows are also the busiest time for them because larger companies are usually issuing their own news. Your news will get lost in the noise.
- Last but not least: Leverage social media channels to provide teasers leading up to your announcement, and afterward continue to talk about the importance of what you’ve announced in social media. Don’t make the content too marketing specific but instead focus on your product’s or service’s business benefits. Most importantly, engage with other influencers, including the media and analysts who wrote about your news. Thank them in social media and help promote their stories.
The fall season is expected to be a busy one, with larger companies generating news. If you want to get the attention of the media, be smart in your approach or your efforts could be wasted.