Those of us who make our living by being dependent on the media’s attention to our clients, learned long ago the value of the press release - practically nothing. Press releases are a waste of the client’s time, the reporter’s time and good paper.
Those of us who make our living by being dependent on the media’s
attention to our clients, learned long ago the value of the press
release - practically nothing. Press releases are a waste of the
client’s time, the reporter’s time and good paper.
A survey done by a media relations publication two years ago showed that
more than 90% of press releases sent out - costing clients more than
half a billion dollars a year - went unused. Given the proliferation of
start-up companies hiring PR firms these days, I would assume this
figure of gross waste on the client’s part is now nearing the
billion-dollar mark. And this is for a product that falls woefully short
of producing anything of substance for their clients. Coupled with the
equally useless, but oh-so-profitable, slickly produced four-color
’press kits,’ this figure probably doubles. Additionally, it
demonstrates a tremendous disregard for the media machine it purports to
’It’s actually an insult the number of releases I get by fax and mail
that concern things outside my beat,’ says Vincent Schodolski, LA bureau
chief for the Chicago Tribune. ’What particularly gets me are the number
of environmental groups sending reams of releases that waste all those
There are a minor percentage of press releases that serve a real and
necessary function. Public companies complying with SEC and legal
requirements of timely disclosure is a good example. And personnel
releases that promote internal morale can also be valuable. But not one
of these has anything to do with the media running a story.
The fact is that the vast majority of releases are pure fluff and
self-serving corporate breast-beating, designed to please the client and
not the media. Why then, is the client surprised that the only pickup it
sees is over the paid wire services and not on the published page?
A well-targeted pitch written by an individual with newsroom experience
can and will achieve successful results. The difference is being
media-driven, not client-driven. PR pros should work within the rules of
the media, instead of trying to make the media adapt to their needs.
The ability to place good solid stories within the media is a dying
Traditional PR firms have found far more lucrative ways to make money -
they can charge far more for abstract services such as ’strategic
counseling’ instead of for something as tangible as getting their
clients ink - one story at a time. But the last time we checked, even
after all the strategic counseling, clients still want good press -
positive stories done in a length and depth that give substance and
credibility over ’fluff.’
- See The Trouble with Press Releases, p14.