Pitch or ditch? How to tell if a news release is actually newsworthy

Pitch or ditch? How to tell if a news release is actually newsworthy

Should you ditch that news release?

We’ve all been there. A client has the most amazing news to share and simply cannot wait to have you write a news release and put the “news” on the wire.

Cringe.

Sigh.

...And all the journalists wait expectantly at the delete button.

This scenario actually happens quite often and it isn’t always the client’s fault. After all, they aren’t supposed to be the public relations experts: we are!

Requests like these are usually a sign that we need to do a much better job communicating what exactly is newsworthy and which newsworthy items deserve the time and monetary investment of writing a news release. This is also the perfect opportunity to explain the pros and cons of working with a wire release service and when it’s appropriate to actually put a release on the wire.

PR Pros Must Communicate and Stop Overusing the News Release

Unfortunately, how and when to use a news release is an often-overlooked point of differentiation, which translates into way too many news releases, misaligned expectations and damaged PR-journalist relationships.

It’s essential that we take our role as educators seriously and know the difference between internal vs. external communication to avoid steering our clients wrong. This will help to determine whether “news” is newsworthy or not and how to use other tools within our PR toolbox besides the overused news release.

We have to work hard to protect our relationships with journalists and maintain the positive, helpful and smart rapport we’ve worked so hard to build. We simply can’t send every news release that comes across our desk or else we risk damaging our journalist relationships, which are hard earned and quickly lost if we get labeled as a “spammer” or clutter their inboxes with PR fluff.

When to Write (and Pitch) a News Release

So, how can you tell if your news is actually news release worthy? Here are some examples of great times to write a news release and even put it on the wire:

  • Category innovation

  • New product niche offerings

  • Industry firsts

  • New products 

  • Significant distribution gains and large new accounts

  • Niche new accounts that have significant distribution

  • Availability in a new region

  • National consumer sweepstakes

  • Partnerships

  • Acquisitions 

  • New CEO

  • Trade show attendance 

  • Strategic announcements designed to get ahead of bad news (layoffs, rats in warehouse, etc. etc.)

  • Awards

Opportunities for News Release without wire distribution:

  • Region-specific news

  • Trade show attendance 

  • Industry requirements (as in, it’s standard for your industry to write a news release about X topic, even if you wouldn’t typically use a release)

In general, quarterly news releases (or bi-monthly at most) distributed on the wire can build brand recognition, thought leadership and overall credibility within your client’s target industries.

Anytime you put a news release on the wire (as long as it is keyworded appropriately) you can expect an SEO boost that can be sustaining for months or even years. 

Know When It’s Time to Ditch and Communicate the BIG PICTURE to Your Client

As a best practice, you can use these qualifiers before constructing a news release:

  • Don’t write a news release if you don’t plan on investing the time to research and personally reach out to relevant media members. (Hint: I don’t mean BCC, mass pitches.)

  • Don’t write a news release if it wouldn't be interesting to a reporter because it just becomes noise and can keep real news from standing out when it's time. 

More Reasons NOT to Write a News Release:

  • Announcing expertise (an award announcement is fine but just announcing that some is an “expert” is a waste and makes you and your client look silly)

  • Non-executive level hires

  • Small distribution or account gains 

  • Speaking engagements

  • Sampling events

  • Remodels that have nothing to do with manufacturing or innovation

A Final Word On Writing News Releases

As a rule of thumb, if you’re wondering whether the news is newsworthy, it probably doesn’t warrant a news release. Instead, let your client know that time would be better spent finding a compelling story angle and targeting their news to several key reporters based on their target audiences and coverage.

You’ll impress your client with your creativity and big picture thinking all while safeguarding your precious media relationships.

Win-win-win.

Kate Finley is the Founder and CEO of Belle Communications, a digital integrated marketing communications agency based in Columbus, Ohio specializing in PR, social media and content marketing for food, restaurant and startup brands. Kate is a young entrepreneur who founded her agency at the age of 28 with the goal of equipping brands with the tools and exposure they need to THRIVE. Kate and her team have secured more than 2000 media opportunities for clients, including coverage with TODAY, Oprah, CNN Money and more. She has been featured in PRWeek, CNNMoney, Cision, PRDaily and Spin Sucks.

Photo: Office garbage via Shutterstock

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