Interesting LinkedIn chatter about a recent Ragan.com article, 8 reasons PR pros shouldn’t use “media advisory” any more. The premise is that media advisory and terms like For Immediate Release are unnecessary, perhaps antiquated.
My big problem is the author’s ongoing term of “story pitch” and “news release” and “media advisory,” all of which seemed to be referenced as the same thing. They are not synonymous terms.
- Story Pitch: I write and e-mail a specific story pitch to a specific reporter at a specific publication. It’s personal, substantive (idea, sources, facts, etc.) and designed to entice the reporter into a solid story.
- News Release: I send a news release to an editor and/or reporter (and others within his or market, industry, etc.). It starts with a greeting, shares a key point or two, then directs them to the news release (below) or to a specific weblink. It usually includes “For Immediate Release” for good reason. It’s news. It’s timely.
- Media Advisory. I like what the author said about media advisories: “… save the phrase for straight forward, nuts and bolts news releases that accomplish little more than share information …” except that, well the media advisory is a … media advisory . Not a news release. Sigh. The advisory is short and sweet, provides the Who/What/When/Where/Why and support info.
Bottom line, PR pros better know the difference between a story pitch, a news release and a media advisory, and how to best communicate news, ideas and insights to editors and reporters. Twenty-five years of PR work tells me that reporters getting good ideas, newsworthy content and quality story sources don’t care if you send an e-mail with “BingaBangaBoom” in the subject or text window as long as the BingaBangaBoom relates to their readers.
In our last post, we began with, ” So how do you know if your agency is working hard, or just playing ring-around-the-rosy with your money and company?” We talked starting with realistic expectations, then pursuing the agency that’s right for you.
So to continue, here’s the bottom line:
- The number of press clippings don’t matter. Blasphemy, I know. But, would you rather have four news clips in one month, or one big story in a publication that matters to your customers and prospects? A miniscule mention in the Wall Street Journal (every clients wants to be in the WSJ, whether they have a story or not) is less valuable than Cattle Hide News if you and your prospects focus on beef and hide manufacturing. So, did the agency fail because they didn’t meet the “number of clips standard,” or succeed because Cattle Hide News is the exact target of your business? This is practical PR in progress.
When it comes to PR, here are the practical realities:
- Expectations. I know, we keep talking about this, but it’s critical at the very beginning of a client-agency relationship. When I meet with a client, this is where we start. First, I listen to their PR perceptions and expectations. Then I explain mine and what’s involved in the PR gig. Quality client-agency communications requires an open-door policy that allows candid conversations that can be refreshing, and sometimes difficult. Bottom line, it keeps everyone accountable, intentional and focused. Transparency eliminates friction, confusion and ignorance.
- The Control Factor. An uninformed client–usually a field sales representative that works with the client, calls the PR agency:
“Hey Bob (agency supervisor), we have three sales guys who received Top Salesman Awards at our meeting in Hawaii.
If you could place the story on the inside page 2 of the business section, that’d be great. Oh, we’ve got a great photo too.
Could you get that in this week? Thanks man.”
In this case, we remain calm, get back to the client, provide some education and possibly refer the client to the publication’s advertisement department. As PR professionals, we have absolutely no control of media and a publication’s story decisions, or when and where it will be published. We do the best job possible and remain engaged with the media. The reality is that some months reap rivers of life; others yield times when we feel we’re wandering through the wilderness for 40 years … without Moses. Recommendation: Be patient, know your agency is really working newsworthy story ideas, and recognize that some days are diamonds and some days are dirt.
- Spin, Sin and Doing It Right. High-integrity PR professionals don’t spin or sin just to get a story placed. We avoid lies and exaggeration. In fact, we abide by codes of ethics from The Council of PR Firms, PRSA and/or IABC. We also counsel clients to focus on quality of news, not quantity of news releases. Quantity results in irrelevant information, not news. Long term, this quality news approach makes the client and agency look a lot smarter to editors and reporters. One alternative news strategy is to identify press-worthy news releases that you actually distribute to media, with others being written but posted only to your website’s newsroom and being only sent to employees, suppliers, customers and prospects.
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In our next post, we’re focusing on Serving 2 Masters, Smart Agency Hiring and more.
—The PRactical PR Guy, Dallas