Many times, when companies have news to share, the instinctive thinking is ”we need a news release.” But nowadays in particular, defaulting automatically to a release is not always the right approach. (See my post here with alternatives to a traditional press release.)
To start, let’s acknowledge that news releases can be an effective communications tool, just as you know when and how to use one. The first two questions that you should always be asking: what about this is relevant and interesting to the media, and what are our goals with this particular communication? If you and your team can answer those two questions and determine that you a) have something newsworthy to share and b) that a news release will help you reach your goals, then – and only then – is it time to start working on that draft.
Speaking of goals, a news release is great for attracting media attention when the news is actually relevant and interesting (do you sense a theme here?) and when having a brief, written summary of a particular announcement or launch is beneficial to both your company and also the various community and media contacts that would ultimately be receiving your release.
One example would be if your company has a weekly speaker series that takes place every single Monday. It likely wouldn’t be worth it to write a news release for each and every single one of those events – but a case could be made for four or so releases per year announcing upcoming events in the series and other relevant updates. A similar situation would be if you hire three new employees at the same time – in most cases, you could bundle the news together instead of writing three separate announcements. But there are still exceptions on a case-by-case basis – like if your university has just hired a new president or a new CEO has just come on board at a pivotal time for the company, you’re probably going to want to do a separate release.
After you’ve written a solid news release (more on that here), you’re only halfway there. Making strategic decisions about who your release will go and when is just as important as the release itself. After all, a news release is meant to be a communications tool – but you and your team will have a hard time getting attention if your big announcement goes out in a blast email in the middle of the night to all the wrong people.
To form a media contact list, go back to your goals and consider who you want to reach and a build a list that focuses more on quality than quantity. And when you’re deciding when to press send, a general rule of thumb is to stick to the earlier part of the day when newsrooms are still planning out coverage and to avoid off times like holiday weekends or when some kind of crisis is happening that’s taking over the news cycle.
The next time a news release comes up in a meeting, we hope this will leave you thinking a bit more about the why.