The Press Release is the Gateway, Not the Story

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The fastest-growing market in North Carolina known as The Triangle, which includes Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, is home to top universities, research centers and numerous start-ups and small businesses. Chronicling this exciting growth is The News & Observer, which dedicates a weekly Shop Talk column for its readers that seek insider tips on marketing, public relations, investor relations and other business topics. I was recently asked to provide my take on a hotly contested tool of the trade – press releases. I provided basic tips on when a press release should be used, how to use the headline to get attention from a reporter and the format for how press releases should be written.

Once the bases are covered and the press release is distributed to your media contacts, how do you get a story written? A press release only opens the door. Relationships and resources are necessary to securing the coverage your investors can smile about. Let me explain.

Derived from the word relate, which means to narrate or tell; to bring into link in logical or natural association, the ability to relate is critical to a successful public relations endeavor in two ways. First, as an executive, you are entrenched in the details of your business and the excitement of a new deal. While it may be newsworthy, a story is different from your news. Your news is a gateway to the story. PR firms specialize in relating the association between your news – a large deal with a prestigious brand – and your story – the deal is a reflection of changes in the investments being made in your industry.

Relate2Second, strong relationships are needed to get things accomplished. Just like calling your neighbor to help with the carpool duties, reporters like to rely on people that have been there for them in the past. Many experienced PR professionals already know who is covering what topic, how they handle interviews, their style of writing and how to present your story to the editor.

Resources encompass having something of credible value to share with reporters to develop your story. A press release is only one tool and it is not enough. At minimum, resources include industry analysts that can add authority to your perspective, customers that can explain what is happening in their business and how working with your company benefits their success, and finally partners that can explain the impact of the sales or channel strategy.

In addition to lining up the people resources – analysts, customers and partners – in today’s world, seeing is succeeding. Videos and infographics are crucial elements for extending your message and adding validity to your story. For example, a short video of a question and answer session with your company CEO that explains what the news means to the market along with an infographic that provides a historical look at key milestones in your industry would go a long way in explaining the relevance of your news—thereby creating a strong story for the reporter to write.

While press releases play a central role in your SEO strategy, press releases are still written for the press – editors, bloggers and reporters – that cover your industry. Do not write a press release alone and expect a story; relationships and resources are the key to great coverage.