One of the most troubling questions public relations practitioners are asked goes like this: “We just need a news release. Can you do a news release for us? How much would a news release cost?”
As I cringe inside and try to avoid an obvious eye-roll, I attempt to keep my composure as I respond: “Well, there are some things to think about first: What is your objective, how will you measure success, who is your target audience, what is the messaging that will motivate them, what is your call to action, and for gosh sakes, what is your NEWS, who should care and why?”
Often, I hear only silence. The fact is, if you have to ask that question, you really don’t need a news release. You will be wasting your money if you find someone to write one and then “send it out.”
Ah, but here’s a thought: You might actually need an objective-based communications campaign plan. And, if you are talking to a seasoned public relations professional (and we actually have a few here at Clearview Communications and Public Relations Inc.), a news release will absolutely not be part of that plan.
However, your plan may include various appropriate communications initiatives, and several well-crafted and well-thought-out news releases might be part of the plan. Might not. If so, they will be supported by appropriate social media initiatives, audience engagement events, speaking gigs, perhaps videos, radio and television appearances (only after mandatory media interview skills training), op-ed submissions and journalist/blogger deskside interviews or coffees, along with other tactics.
Now, we are getting somewhere. Your plan must include these very basic components:
- Objective: A simple description of what you want to accomplish with your communications campaign, all quantified in measureable metrics. What do you want your target audience to do or think? And, who is your target audience? (Remember, there is no such thing as the general public anymore).
- Strategy: Describe the overall approach and process you will use to reach your objective. Will the campaign leverage traditional or social media, rely on permission-givers or thought leaders to move the audience, require event management, and, will it focus on a broad or specifically targeted audience? (Are you assertive in a positive, proactive situation, or in reactionary mode, as in damage control?)
- Tactics: Identify the specific action items in your arsenal of tools you will apply to support the strategy. Here, we may actually be able to determine IF a regularly timed cascade of appropriate, well-written news releases, optimized for the search engines, are part of that arsenal. We call this tactic organic SEO, and when we do it at Clearview, the process beats the heck out of Google Ad Words in driving traffic).
- Timeline: What will be the duration of the communications campaign in order to execute the strategy with supporting tactics to achieve the objective?
- Budget: What have we calculated will be the financial requirement to staff up to execute the tactics? Will the budget be allocated by monthly retainer, hourly or project fee? What could ROI look like, and was that question answered in the objective-setting process?
So, considering all of the above, we now have an organized, structured program for a communications campaign that will motivate your target audiences to take specific action or to change behaviors, is measureable, will provide a return on your investment that is acceptable to you and your agency, and enhance your brand’s positive visibility.
The alternative, that single news release, would have gone deep into the darkness of that black hole where all single news releases go to die, with everyone wondering why nothing happened.