What the press really think about PR

I spent last Wednesday night at a panel discussion put on by the New England Venture Network on PR and social media for startups. The panel, moderated by Norm Birnbach, featured the thoughts of several local media experts: Greg Huang of Xconomy, Galen Moore of Mass High Tech, Dan Primack, who recently left Reuters and is now with Fortune.com, and Paul Gillin, a long time journalist and consultant on social media. Moderated by Norm Birnbach, the panel was lively and offered up some good thoughts on some current hot PR topics. Here’s a look at a few.

Is the press release dead?
If you follow PR you know that several practitioners have said either the traditional release is dead or that releases themselves are dead. Overall the panel agreed the press release is not dead, but there were some interesting opinions on what purpose it serves. Gillin felt releases were key for SEO. Primack said he doesn’t read past the first paragraph. Moore felt mailing the release to the editor was more effective than using Business Wire because he uses a RSS reader and “by 9am my reader is full of press releases I’m not going to read”. Huang thought releases were useful and for an organization like Xconomy good for writing briefs.

My take: Releases are not dead but they need to be viewed in a different way both in how they are written and how they are distributed. Releases must be written to serve the needs of the media but also to support the company’s SEO. It’s a delicate balance. Distribution must be evaluated in terms of the goal of the release. If a release is designed to tell customers about an upgrade that requires a different release and distribution strategy than a financing release. One thing that the panel brought up which I hope more companies listen too was about posting PDF’s of releases vs. full versions on a web site. PDFs do not provide SEO and visitors, including media and analysts, are less likely to read them.

Are Embargos dead?
Tech Crunch started the movement to kill the embargo. This panel was split down the middle about embargoes. Moore said MHT will not take embargos. Huang said they would. Gillin feels embargos are terrible and cautioned companies not to them. Primack said he’d take them. There was also disagreement on exclusives. Gillin cautioned the attendees to avoid them at all costs, feeling you will anger other outlets. Primack took the other side and said that if a startup has a chance to get an exclusive in TechCrunch why wouldn’t they?

My take: Embargoes can get you more coverage because it gives the reporter a chance to write the story ahead of the release and put up a story concurrently to the news. There are a number of outlets who will still take them and honor them. But you have to have a relationship with the writer and make it clear what the embargo is. If you don’t know for sure that the writer won’t break embargo, don’t give them the release. A good PR person will be able to help you with this.

As far as exclusives go, I am a huge proponent of them for startups when used carefully. I’ve packaged exclusives for media for over 20 years and only once have I had a competitive reporter be truly upset. And in that case we took care of them the next time around. And when I’ve given an exclusive to a major outlet like the Journal or the Times, I’ve been able to give the same story to other outlets by using a different angle.

Will media still take informational and background meetings?
I asked this question. Given the reduced staffs and need to file several stories a day, I wanted to hear if they thought background meetings were still something they thought were valuable. For the most part, they are still interested but they have to see the value in the meeting. For example, will they get insight into a market or a tidbit about another company. Is there news down the pike? Some of the panel, Moore particularly, wants to hear directly from the company executive about a meeting.

My take: Getting background meetings is tougher than it once was, but not impossible. The panel was right. You have to know how to position the value of the meeting for the reporter, blogger or analyst. What are their hot points? What are they working on? Is there another news story brewing that you client can provide insight on?

I’ll post some more of their insights this week.


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One comment on “What the press really think about PR
  1. Anonymous says:

    You’re right on the money in this post, Suzanne. With respect to press releases, I couldn’t agree more about incorporating SEO practices when writing releases (and other content destined to go online.) I would add that thinking about all the different places your audience(s) live online – and ensuring that you’re reaching them with the type of content they respond to – video, infographics, photos, Tweetable tidbits – is also important. We blogged about this very subject on the PR Newswire blog today: http://blog.prnewswire.com/2010/10/21/the-death-and-rebirth-of-the-press-release/

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