If I had a dime every time I’ve heard a client say, “I think we should put out a press release,” I could bailout all three automakers and still have money left over to do the same for the airlines. In today’s Web 2.0-driven world, the press release is about as useful as the wooden wheel. Calling anyone in the media to tell them you want to talk to them about a certain press release is the quickest way to end up in someone like Brian Morrissey’s tweets. And if you know Brian, the tweet will be riddled with sarcasm and you’ll be in the middle of it…and rightfully so.
The press release is like crack for most clients. Once they have done it once they want to keep going back to it. The client constantly thinks of reasons to use it even though the high is short-lived. And the end result usually makes them crash because it rarely results in any media coverage.
As PR agencies it’s our job to conduct a press release intervention. It is long overdue. The abuse of press releases has caused our industry to suffer immensely. Why? Because we are usually the ones trying to pimp a release with zero news value to the media. And ultimately, this means that the agency is viewed as the annoying one, not the client.
So what’s an agency to do? Just say no. I’m not kidding. If you are an agency worth the retainer you are being paid, you will be able to demonstrate that the bulk of the coverage — hopefully 90+% — you have secured on behalf of your clients had nothing to do with a press release. If you’re good, the coverage had to do with pitching an original story that was of great interest to the readership or viewership of that particular media outlet/blog.
Like most addictions, some people cannot quit cold turkey. For the incredibly dependent client who has been toking on the press release crack-pipe for years, and in some cases decades, I have a technique that I have seen work well. Tell them you will write a release, but suggest they not put it over the wire. Tell them they can post it on their website. This usually gives them comfort and takes the edge off. No matter how much they beg, don’t put the release over the wire. I believe it is the act of putting the release over the wire that ignites the adrenaline rush that keeps the addiction alive.
What is your experience with press release interventions?