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That’s a sales pitch, not a news story

June 9, 2011

“If you tell me, it’s an essay. If you show me, it’s a story.” BARBARA GREENE

“And if you bore me to death, it’s a media release.”

I saw this quote on Advice to Writers yesterday, and I thought would make my own addition to it.

Look, I’m not here to proclaim the death of the media release; it has its uses.

It also has its abuses. (Just check out PR Newswire any day of the week).

I’ve touched on this topic in earlier posts, but I thought of it yesterday when I gave an oft-repeated piece of client advice, ‘That’s a key message, not a story’.

In this instance, the client was talking about a suite of products her organisation has developed to raise industry standards. An admirable goal? Yes. A story in itself? Not so much.

Maybe, it would warrant a launch announcement. After that, however, we’d continue to make reference to the ‘standards’ in our media materials and interviews. We weave it into the story, rather than trying to make a story on its own.

Ultimately, just because you put ‘news release’ at the top of a document, doesn’t mean it’s newsworthy.

It comes back to thinking about your audience – consider what is interesting and relevant to them. Do they really want to read your sales pitch over their morning latte?

It’s a little ‘PR 101’ perhaps, but here is a list you should ask youself or your clients, if you are considering whether something is newsworthy:

  • If I was reading the newspaper, would I care about this? Editors aren’t silly – they know what their readers are interested in.
  • Is this actually news?  i.e. has something new happened? If people wanted to read sales messages, they would go around and pick up brochures from office reception areas.Instead, they buy the paper to read about new things.
  • If it is news, to whom is it relevant? Yes, the launch of your product passes the ‘new’ test. But if it’s only useful to one group, that’s the only group that will care. So, be happy to see it in ‘Steel News Daily’. Leave the AFR alone.
  • Do I sound like a person when I talk about this, or a robot? Many a good story has been murdered by the corporate jargon monster. If you can’t read out the CEO’s quotes without sounding like a wanker, you probably need a re-write.
I recognise that many of you know all this. It’s just getting your clients, CEO or global head office to believe you. At least you now have third-party endorsement from a ‘world-leading authority on PR best practice’.
(And yes, that description was ironic. But if you say it with confidence, people may just believe you).
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