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‘Dear Journalist’ – how to get a press release deleted immediately

May, 2014

The relationship between journalists and PRs can often be easily undermined by a badly targeted, poorly written press release, which can damage a client’s reputation.

One such case was forwarded to Maxim from a senior Kent journalist who had been left exasperated when he received a press release promoting an event taking place in London, to help a major retailer celebrate a landmark birthday.

PR faux pas

The release, sent as a PDF, another PR faux pas, was addressed not to a named individual, but Dear Journalist. In today’s digital world, and with instant access to numerous media databases, there’s no excuse to not know who you’re sending the release to.

Few people, if any, would ever send a letter to a prospective customer addressed to: Dear Business Person – and if they did they’d get few, if any, replies of interest.

The timing of the release also undermined the PR’s credibility. Given it was promoting a weekend event in London, why did the agency choose to send it to this journalist by email after 2pm on the Thursday before the event? Did they not realise that this was after the print deadline, making the story’s only outlet the newspaper’s website? Whatever the reason – it successfully missed the target and undermined the relationship between the PR and the journalist – and their views of the PR industry.

Gilding the lily and hyperbole is something most journalists throw scorn at the PR industry for. This release sought to suggest that the agency’s client delivered a ‘unique’ retail experience of entertaining families and children. That’s not the word that comes to mind when customers enter one of its emporiums, ‘excellent’ ‘high quality’ maybe, but never ‘unique’.

Localise the story

And the event was in London, more than an hour away by train, so it was hardly local. While many Kent newspapers do print stories about events beyond their patch in their entertainment pages, few if any highlight London-based events, as there are simply too many, and that’s the job of other media, or websites. The retailer may have been repeating the event at its Kent stores but if it was the release failed to mention this fact and better localise the story for the county’s press.

In essence the story was: two people dressed as cartoon characters will be entertaining shoppers, and their kids, at two major London stores this weekend. Not really a story of any significance, and definitely not one that’s likely to get picked up by a local newspaper journalist. This type of release now invariably finds itself in the ‘buy an advert’ pile, and passed to the advertising team, or worse still, straight into the bin.

We’re not perfect but…

The team at Maxim would never claim to be perfect, but across the industry there’s an urgent need to improve relations with our key customers, in this instance the press. By achieving this we would be better placed to deliver what our clients want, which is strong, positive and consistent editorial coverage.

PR agencies need to:

  • Send releases to the right person
  • Understand what makes a real news story – not churn out corporate puff
  • Understand the publications we are trying to persuade to use our stories
  • Have a better awareness of deadlines
  • Do better for our customers
Andrew Metcalf - Director

Andrew Metcalf

Maxim / Managing Director

posted in: advice, media relations,

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