How to Merchandise Publicity

We hear the lament from clients when a press release doesn’t receive the attention the client felt it deserved. When a press release is reduced to four lines from a page a half, they are equally disappointed.

This is the public relations business and it is a business that is continually evolving.

One of the most important things to accept when distributing a press release is that in most cases the media won’t use a press release word-for-word. A press release is like an appetizer. It helps a reporter by providing a wealth of information and background for their article.

Hopefully, it whets their appetite to do their own version of the article. When a client nitpicks a press release and changes words from ‘the’ to ‘a’, this may make the client feel better but in reality this won’t make the difference.

The value of a public relations company is their ability to ferret out the news and package it in a way that would be interesting to the press. I always ask myself would I want to read this in the morning paper as the criteria to judge if a client has a story of value. There always needs to be a hook or an angle.

When a client wants a major rewrite of a press release and wants unsubstantiated claims added, you can rest assured that this is a press release that will make the trash can.

Without factual statistics to back up claims, a press release can’t assert they are best senior living community in the country or the dining room serves the best food. A press release needs to be free of clichés and buzzwords. Luxury, resort, five-star are words better used in ads rather than a press release.

There are legitimate press announcements that the media will use. Generally these have a business angle such as personnel announcements and real estate acquisitions.

If you want a newspaper to use a press release exactly as it is written, we suggest buying an ad. The editorial side of a newspaper is entirely different than the advertising department and one doesn’t influence the other.

That being said, there are many uses for a press release that are effective marketing techniques that often are missed.

Here are tips on merchandising community publicity:

  • If the press release is used in a publication, you should reprint copies of it for distribution in your brochure collateral. Be sure to include the publication’s masthead. If the article doesn’t appear, reprint it on community letterhead in press release format. The article will still be read by the customer so don’t worry if it’s picked up by the media.
  • Hand out a press release to residents, families and customers and say, “here’s something that you may find of interest.” Showing the press release on the company’s masthead will be just as effective as if the article appeared in the newspaper.
  • Merchandise the article on LinkedIn chat groups.
  • Include an excerpt of the article on Facebook and “fans” to a link to view the article in its entirety.
  • Use a press release for direct mail. Send the press release to a warm list with a post-it note, “thought you’d be interested.”
  • Use the content of the press release in a community newsletter.
  • Use the content of the press release on your community’s website as a blog. This is where you can create the content you want without concern of a reporter’s rejection.

We often use what the industry calls a “pitch” because it’s far more effective that explains the news and why a particular reporter and her readers should care. Personalizing an email or picking up the phone requires more time and effort than simply distributing a press but the results are better. When considering a public relations/communications company, the important question to ask is their results.

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