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Please, not another press release

If you want to put out some information about your company’s CSR or support of a cause that’s important to your customers, your employees, your community, I’m begging you:

Don’t issue a press release.

Press releases have been a staple of the PR industry for millennia. It’s a forgotten fact of history that the cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found also contained an early version of the AP Stylebook.

And they still have their place, I suppose. Like when a company has actual news to report.

But if you have a story to share, or something that needs to capture the attention, inspire, entertain, or motivate your audience, please, no press releases.

Why?

First of all, they are rarely used by the media the way they used to be. Time was, journalists would publish a press release pretty much as they were written, or at least portions of it. With some exceptions (again, in the world of news) those days are over.

Second, for something the media don’t use, press releases take an awful long time to create. First some junior PR person writes it (after she takes the time to learn the subject matter), then it needs to be approved, by her boss, a subject matter expert, a marketing manager, perhaps a VP, and if you’re really unlucky, the legal department.

That’s a lot of time spent on something of so little consequence.

But most of all, they’re boring as hell. Because they’re written to be “news-y,” they contain very little emotion or excitement. They’re loaded with corporate speak and jargon. If there is a quote in it, it’s not something any human being would actually ever say. And they contain so much detail about unimportant things.

What should you do instead? Well, it depends on the situation, but here are a few ideas:

Focus on the story, not the facts

Take whatever “news” you were planning to include in your press release and ask yourself: Why are we making this announcement? Who will be affected by this? How? Why is this important? What is the big deal? Within the answers to any one of those questions lies a story.

Tell it.

Publish a blog post

Once you have your story, you need a place to tell it. A blog post is as good a place as any. Sure, blogs might have to go through the same approval mill that press releases do, but at least they’re written in a more interesting way (if they’re done well) and people will read them.

Upload a video

Maybe it’s your CEO making an announcement about the news. Maybe it’s a group of employees at a volunteering event. Maybe it’s your R&D team giving a sneak peak at a new product. Video can be a powerful tool. Don’t overlook it as a possibility.

Share some photos

Even without a caption or a description, photos can tell a story.

Pick up the phone

Call a journalist, one that you have a relationship with, and just tell him your story. Let them know you have images, data, and people for them to interview (because you do, right?). If it’s compelling and relevant, they’ll be interested.

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