Shel Horowitz, in his Principled Profits blog recently told this instructive story of how NOT to get journalists, bloggers and other media people to grant your company positive exposure in the press.

On a Friday night not too long ago, after work hours, he received from a publishing house a press release marked “double urgent” — announcing with breathless anticipation that they would be unveiling their “fresher, more contemporary logo design” at an upcoming publishing industry expo in New York City.

Well, whoop-di-doo. You're excused if you feel an uncontrollable urge to yawn.

While I'm sure the new logo was thrilling news to employees of the publishing house, it was pretty much a non-issue for the rest of the world. Certainly not worthy of a “double urgent” after-hours release.

This is a mistake that too many companies make with their press releases — confusing things that are important and exciting to them with things that will interest the people who read their press releases.

Let's face it. If the only people who will really care about the content of your press release are you, your employees and maybe your mom (and even Mom's not a sure thing), then maybe you're better off taking the time you would have used to craft that “killer” press release and using it instead toward something of value.

And if for some reason you feel compelled to go ahead and release your non-newsworthy “news” anyway, for Pete's sake don't mark it “urgent”! Look at it from the standpoint of the people who are going to receive and read this release. How do you think they'll react to being tricked?

Journalists and bloggers who are annoyed at your deception (however innocent or well-intentioned it might have been) have the power to make you a public example. They are also very busy, and they have long memories. Waste their time once and you may have a very hard time even getting them to read your release the next time around, much less make the effort of writing up a story about your news item.

Getting on the wrong side of these people is not what you might call an “optimal public relations strategy.”

In the example, if the press release had given Shel some compelling and relevant real news — something that actually justified a “double urgent” designation — he almost certainly would have stopped by their booth at the Expo to learn more. He might even have mentioned it in one or another of his popular webzines, thereby potentially bringing the company some good publicity.

At the very least, if they'd simply sent out a normal, non-urgent release announcing the new logo without all the hype, he likely wouldn't have had such a negative reaction. Granted, he probably wouldn't have written up a story on the new logo in that case. Bottom line, in most cases a new logo isn't that much of a story. But at least he wouldn't have walked away from the experience with such a negative perception of the publishing house — and he might have at least visited their booth to check out the new design.

As it was, though, while their strategy of false urgency for a non-news “story” might have gotten him to read the release initially, ultimately it backfired.

Don't make the same mistake!

May 18, 2007

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