The world may be getting smaller but the potential audiences for PR expand constantly. Globalization, localiza- tion and digitization may require that you customize and translate your message to make sure it reaches diverse media and consumers.
The world may be getting smaller but the potential audiences for PR
expand constantly. Globalization, localiza- tion and digitization may
require that you customize and translate your message to make sure it
reaches diverse media and consumers.
When it comes to the trusty old press release, opinions are split on
whether more is better. Suppose a company introduces a new product. Some
PR pros advise writing several versions of a press release to reach
different markets, while others say you run the risk of muddling your
message by doing so.
Those in favor of tailoring releases remind us that everybody likes to
feel special. Showing a producer that you understand her program’s
specific editorial needs can go a long way toward getting your news on
the air, or at least keeping it out of the circular file. Your story’s
significance might not stand out to the editor of a niche publication if
the release he scans is generic and not accompanied by a focused tip
sheet or pitch letter.
On the other hand, some PR pros say fragmentation leads to
ineffectiveness and inconsistency. ’The message is the message is the
message, no matter if you are talking to customers, employees, analysts,
competitors or the media,’ asserts Bodine Williams, director of Hill &
Knowlton’s New York media group. Recognizing that reporters don’t write
stories based solely on press releases, Stan Levenson of Levenson Public
Relations in Dallas views them as documents of record or reference
Those who frown upon issuing multiple releases for the same announcement
recognize the occasional need to localize geographically, to use
different verbal pitches for varied media or, as Levenson suggests, to
customize accom- panying cover letters.
About 30% of the press releases handled by Media Distribution Services
are part of campaigns that involve sending the same information to
different outlets simultaneously using different leads or angles,
estimates Don Bates, MDS managing director of marketing and new media.
The rest may be more generic but are often targeted to one specific
market or media category.
Clients most often specialize to hit technology trades, financial or
investor communities, ethnic markets or specific geographic areas, notes
David Armon, PR Newswire’s SVP of customers and markets. Clients also
frequently draft different versions for print and broadcast media, and
healthcare releases are sometimes adapted to reach medical journals and
consumer publications, he adds. ’If you tailor a release, you get better
pickup,’ Armon claims. For example, a company might send its earnings
report along with one or two charts to business journalists while adding
several other graphs for the analyst community.
Probably the most common and longstanding use of focused releases is the
’hometown’ story. Employee awards, local projects and test markets
aren’t the only reasons to focus geographically. When Prudential began
offering individual long-term care policies, the company sent the
message out to agents in places like Florida through its grass-roots
network, says PR VP Mary Flowers.
Tailoring releases, or at least pitches, becomes crucial in the booming
technology sector as mainstream media take note of hi-tech gadgets. ’The
number of people using technology and the media covering technology has
become extremely diverse,’ says Kathleen Bowden, VP of Cunningham
Ventures’ consumer technology practice in Austin. In years past,
technology coverage usually meant complex articles in engineering trades
or coming-trend pieces for early adopters. But magazines like Glamour
and Mademoiselle have created technology sections within the last 18
months, Bowden notes. ’The sexy part of the story for them is almost
never the technology itself, but the cool way real people are using
Yet releases for different media should all tell the same story, if in
slightly different language. Revisions shouldn’t be sweeping, says
Bonnie Quintanilla, managing director of global technology for Manning,
Selvage and Lee. Adapting a technology release for a consumer audience
usually means cutting out details about bits and bytes, she
Tailoring for Hispanic, Asian or African-American markets may include
identifying an executive’s ethnicity, notes Lisa Skriloff, president of
New York’s Multicultural Marketing Resources. ’The ethnic press is
interested in chronicling the success of the people of the heritage they
cover.’ Prudential’s top domestic insurance agent happens to be African
American, Flowers says. The release Prudential sends to magazines like
Black Enterprise likely will be revised slightly to reflect that.
Reaching the ethnic or international press can become more complex if
language translations are necessary. ’Someone who translates Spanish
literature wouldn’t necessarily have the kind of experience with spoken
Spanish you would need,’ Skriloff says. She advises seeking translators
who are familiar with not only PR and advertising terminology but also
with the industry and region to which the release is targeted.
By tailoring press releases, you may run the risk of overexposure if
your distribution lists overlap, according to Dan Savio, PR manager for
Business Wire. ’You need to be very careful that you minimize your
redundancy and that you are, in fact, reaching a fresh, unique, targeted
audience.’ Journalists generally appreciate pros focusing on the
specific angles that might affect their readers or viewers, but don’t
individualize the message so much that they wrongly assume you are
giving them an exclusive, Quintanilla adds.
Being familiar with the lingo of a particular industry is helpful, but
effectively specializing releases requires a genuine grasp of the issues
affecting it. ’It has to go much deeper than the buzz words,’ Savio
PR pros advise against taking customization too far. More than a few
variations are too many, and personal e-mails, letters or phone calls
pointing out specific implications to diverse editors may be more
DOS AND DON’TS
1. Use cover letters, e-mails, phone calls, distinct lead paragraphs or
tip sheets to play up different angles.
2. Keep your message consistent and your revisions minimal.
3. Take local implications and sensitivities into account when
announcing closures and layoffs.
1. Take a one-size-fits-all approach to media relations.
2. Dilute your message by drafting too many different versions of the
same press release.
3. Send the same release about company downsizing to affected
communities that you distribute to the national media.