For any company trying to get press coverage, the goal is simple: make it as easy as possible for a journalist (or blogger, or vlogger, podcaster, or even a fan) to say nice things about you. Yet far too many companies put barriers, obstacles and bottlenecks in the way – and lose out on coverage in the process.
Here are the most common ways in which companies make it harder for themselves to get covered in the press. These are not confined to young companies or start-ups, there are a LOT of companies which should know better, that still run into these rookie problems…
1. Contact Forms
There is nothing more disheartening than clicking through to a CONTACT US page (you DO have one of those, right?) and finding nothing other than a contact form. Like throwing marshmallows into a black hole, it speaks of an impersonal waste of time, with an unmonitored vacancy at the far end. Forget a quick response, or an actual named person you can speak to. What’s wrong with an email address which can be shared between your PR contacts – or even the wider team?
For a journalist looking for a quick quote, or some context for a press release, a contact form is the digital equivalent of a ‘Trespassers will be shot’ doormat. If you use a contact form, we can’t be friends. BONUS POINTS: Your contact form does not actually change in any way to show the message has been sent.
2. Logo – WHERE THE HELL IS YOUR LOGO?
I have a press release. I have a story to write up. I’d quite like to make it look pretty so people will actually read it. I know, I’ll drop in a logo. Except there’s no logo included. Let’s check the website… No. Not there either. You don’t have your logo on your website….? Anywhere. Guess what, if I can actually be bothered, I’m hitting Google Image Search. And if there are a variety of different logos on there, I’ll pick the one I like. Whether or not that was three rebrands ago. BONUS POINTS: Calling us and complaining that we used an out-of-date or incorrect logo and demanding that it’s changed. And then failing to send the latest/correct version of the logo.
3. Being Out Of Office The Same Day Your PR Is Released
“Oh, sorry [he/she] isn’t in the office today! I can pass on a message!” This is not an acceptable response. Ever. If a press release goes out, someone in the office should be able to send me a damn logo, or tell me who I can talk to for a quote. It’s ‘news’ (presumably, we’ll come to that whole issue shortly…) waiting for a day or two (or until next week) means it’s no longer news. This is unforgivable when you talk to a company directly, it becomes infinitely, teeth-grindingly, setting-fire-to-the-office-level annoying when it’s a PR agency who, one might imagine, would be prepared for enquiries when a press release goes out. BONUS POINTS: The Out Of Office reply cheerily informs us that you’re on your hols (somewhere lovely and sunny!) and that you’re switching your phone off, but will respond when you return to the office!)
Oh brilliant. You’ve sent us a photo/screenshot/image to accompany the release. An image. One. Of the CEO in a car park, or standing indistinguishably in a crowd of other lovely, yet unnamed, people. In landscape format. Low res. Let me try to hammer that into a featured image and a thumbnail and a photo to break up that chain of awful quotes, to try and stop readers falling into a coma. Have you every used a photo library or stock photography to try and make a news piece looking interesting? HAVE YOU? Have you ever looked through columns and columns of photos of generically happy business people, smiling people pointing at documents, or a vaguely digital background which has a key or a padlock, or god help us, handcuffs on there because you’re writing about ‘cybersecurity’? Have you? No. You haven’t. Because if you had, you would get the CEO/CFO/CTO into a room with a camera, even if it was at knifepoint and put many pictures up online where laughing generic journalists can find them and download freely. BONUS POINTS: You’re sending same photo you’ve used for this person for a year now and has been used by every single publication ever – which the CEO makes a point of complaining about the next time you meet…
5. The Quote(s)
The CEO is thrilled is he? Or is she delighted? How wonderful. The announcement is in line with the strategy and you’re confident it will meet expectations? Smashing. How about a bit of context? How about you make it sound like something that person would actually say in real life? Because if CEOs, or the other folks routinely quoted in press releases actually said that crap in real life, people would shun them. They wouldn’t get invited to speak at conferences, or network with even the cheapest of free red wines. Give us something useful. Give us some insight into the company, or why this is important. We know the CEO is a fun drunk with borderline Tourettes, why not let him tell it like it is. We’ll probably cut out the gratuitous bits anyway. You’ll get some cracking PR out of it… BONUS POINTS: The CEO’s quote is cut and pasted directly from the company boilerplate, or the About Us section of the website.
6. Playing Favourites
You send us a nice release. There’s a good quote, a couple of decent images and even a logo. Great, we’ll get something written up and out later today… Only to find that another website / newsletter / paper / channel got the release yesterday and their story’s already live, using the same images, quotes, etc. Oddly enough, we’re not massively enthused about carrying the story in those circumstances. BONUS POINTS: The release was originally sent out several days/weeks ago and nobody cared enough to run it, so the date’s been changed and fingers crossed that it’s a slow news day/the journalists won’t remember.
You’re not the leading anything. Not unless there’s some data in there that can back it up. See also unique, extensive, innovative, pioneering and best-in-class. We need more than your word for it. An infographic would be great, but we’ll settle for a spreadsheet. Hell, even a bullet pointed list with links would do. In the last fortnight, we’ve received a couple of press releases which, once stripped of verbiage (the professional term for ‘PR bollocks’) were reduced to two lines: Company does [x], CEO [delighted/thrilled].
The ultimate goal of a press release is for the journalist to say, “My goodness! This is objective and well written, I can just cut and paste it.” Your message direct on the page. Job done. Yet far, far too many companies and execs (CEO’s: I’m looking at you) only feel like they’re getting their money’s worth from a two page press release of business drivel that we then have to spend our time picking to pieces to get to the actual news. BONUS POINTS: In the effort to make sure the press is aware of how leading and end-to-end you are, what the company actually does and what the actual news is gets totally lost.
The story is really simple. Company [x] has done [y]. The CEO may or may not be thrilled. Yet that’s too simple. A two line press release would be somehow… lazy. The PR person/team/agency is never going to be taken seriously if they send out something so minimal. Far better to break out the crack troops and go make sure that the press release mentions the fact the company moved offices six months ago, that there’s a new technical director and that the CEO is a fully qualified first-aider who also got a 100m swimming certificate several years ago, so should the office flood, the business is fully resilient and would continue to function with a minimal loss of life/data. BONUS POINTS: Combine padding with verbiage, to ensure that the journalist accurately ascertains the proficiency of the company’s market-leading position and unassailable first mover advantage in the rapidly evolving sector. We LOVE it…
News is stuff that happens. Hopefully stuff that will interest some other people. Company [x] acquires company [y] is news. As is company [x] releases product [y]. What isn’t news is how company [x] feels about product [y] several weeks after launch – unless something topical and noteworthy has happened. Company [x] still confident about product [y] is a distressingly common press release these days. Board moderately confident things going to plan isn’t news. Learn to prioritise. If you have a sexy new WiFi kettle in the office, stick it on Twitter. If it’s really interesting, the press will come to you. It doesn’t need a two page press release announcing the exec’s satisfaction with the innovative and pioneering online beverage initiative. If in doubt, call and ask. Or better yet, leave your contact details in our web form, we’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks… BONUS POINTS: There’s a perfectly good story somewhere in the midst of the press release, which happened a few weeks back, that you totally failed to recognise or tell anybody about.
10. Be Excited
There’s a time and a place for being Scottish, possibly at a funeral next to a misty, rain-dappled highland loch, while a lone piper plays a lament to the fallen. It’s definitely not in a press release. The natural reticence of the Scottish character is a fine thing, but it’s flat out incompatible with talking to a journalist. The self-deprecating and downbeat approach, doesn’t make for an exciting or interesting interview or article. Putting it very simply, if you can’t get excited about your company/product/client, then why should I? Yes, the whole notion of being enthusiastic about your company or your work is enough to put many people (even some marketing directors) in a state of anxiety. But if you’re not passionate about what you do, it’s really unlikely that whoever you’re speaking to will be. BONUS POINTS: Make it very clear that you don’t think there’s any real benefit in doing PR, that journalists are untrustworthy charlatans and that there are at least 18 better things you could be doing rather than talking to one.
There you go. Ten issues which are guaranteed to get any journalists blood boiling. If you’re guilty of one, some or all of these deadly sins, don’t feel bad. Approximately 92% of your colleagues, competitors and peers are in exactly the same boat.
Thankfully, your friendly neighbourhood DIGIT team is here to help. We can help you with what’s news, what’s not and what we need to say write about your company, product or new staff.
You can even send us news tips: email@example.com
Now go and think about what you’ve done!