Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of press releases and pitches, here are my recommendations on when to use each one.
When to Use a Press Release
- As the “announcement of record” that you post online, preferably in your online press room.
- When you must reach consumers directly and not take the chance that the media will cover your story. Consumers can find your press releases when they search online.
- As the starting point for journalists. Even if you’re pitching, you can refer journalists and bloggers to the release if they want more information. This will save them valuable time. See 6 ways journalists can use press releases effectively. Don’t miss all the tweets at the bottom in which reporters explain what they like and don’t like about releases.
- When you’re sponsoring an event and you want to submit the information to, say, a community calendar in your town. If it’s a newspaper or magazine, check their website first because they’ll often have a simple form you can complete.
- When you want the story printed verbatim. If you write your press release like an article, the chances of that happening can be pretty good, especially at smaller news outlets. Remember, it needs to sound like an article that someone would write about you, not a free commercial you’ve written yourself.
- When you have multi-media to offer, not just text. Things such as video, audio and infographics can help tell your story and can be part of what’s called the social media press release, created by Shift Communications.
- To encourage people to share the release. In the social media press release link above, notice all the ways the release is shareable (the “tweet this” call to action in the headline, the YouTube video, the social media buttons, etc.)
- When you want to distribute industry news to all media outlets at the same time. Wire services such as The Associated Press and Reuters, as well as thousands of other major news outlets, rely on news feeds that push press releases directly into their pipelines. PRNewswire, for example, feeds its releases to several thousand websites.
When to Deliver a Pitch
- To customize the pitch so different angles of the story appear in different media outlets. Let’s say you’re hosting a food festival in your town. You can pitch a food-related angle to a local food blogger. But for the local business journal, you pitch a story about all the tourist dollars the festival attracts.
- To build a relationship with a blogger or journalist and you want to give them an exclusive. All media outlets want exclusivity and they understand that that’s how the game is played. Giving a favorite journalist or blogger a good story just for them will help you.
- To suggest a story that isn’t about you. Smart Publicity Hounds pitch stories that have nothing to do with them. Why? To make themselves more valuable as news sources.
- To invite a journalist or blogger to participate in your story, not just report on it. Hosting a cardboat boat regatta? Invite a local journalist to sit in one of the cardboat boats.
- To ask for a review of your book, product or service. Don’t assume they know you’ve written a book or that you have a new product on the market. Tell them, and then tell them exactly what you want them to do with it.
- To offer yourself as an expert source for background, commentary and story ideas.
- To get an inbound link to your website and “earned media” from a reputable news operation. The best way to get it is to give them a great story. Google’s new rules for press release links say you can no longer rely on press releases as part of a link-building campaign.
You aren’t limited to using either a press release or a pitch. You can—and should—use them in tandem.
Use the press release as the background information and the starting point. When you pitch, refer journalists to the press release where they can find the details.
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