At a referral seminar, I heard about an interesting business concept, where you could hire a handyman for a day. I emailed the owner afterwards, asking had he ever considered sending a press release to the media, as journalists are always keen for stories of innovative businesses. He said he had been approached to be included in a feature article for a national broadsheet, but turned it down because he felt his business would not be portrayed in the way he originally intended. As a result, he lost out on an opportunity to gain free nationwide publicity.
It can be disconcerting to see your press releases drastically changed, or used in what seems like a completely different story. It’s a little like looking at yourself in a photograph or listening to your own voice. ‘I don’t look like that,’ you think. Or ‘I don’t sound like that.’ The important thing to remember is that this is no reflection on your press release. Journalists are just doing their job.
Freedom of Speech
In order for journalists to create compelling stories, they need to have the freedom to write or broadcast the story as they see fit. You’re sending in the press release because you want to promote your business. Journalists may see your press release as the basis for a bigger story. For example, they could decide to use the handyman business as part of a DIY tips article, or an article about how old trades are being revived. Also, they are compromised on word count and decide to use only the first two paragraphs of the press release, or your accompanying image. That’s where the conflict of interest can arise.
Your concern about how you and your business are portrayed in the media is understandable. After all, your business is your baby and you’ve put your heart and soul into it to ensure its success. But unless there are inaccuracies in a journalists’ coverage, the fact that your press release has been changed won’t damage how your business is seen. After all, the public doesn’t know the press release has been changed. And it’s not in a journalist’s best interest to be inaccurate anyway. They’ll suffer the consequences of a damaged reputation, loss of work, or at the very least, a slap on the wrist.
All Publicity is Good
In fact, any mention in the media is a subtle but powerful form of publicity. People will see you as being part of an interesting story and will talk to their friends about a fascinating item they came across on the radio or in the paper. For example, I sent a text about one of my clients’ products into a national radio show. The text was read out and discussed. She got extra hits to her website and an order. And think about it. Would you really want a journalist just to regurgitate your words? Wouldn’t you prefer for journalists to show an interest in your ideas, to take the time to find out more about you and your business?
And there’s more good news. You can take steps to maintain control over your story.
- Know Your Angle. I’ve touched on this before. If you’ve put thought into what’s newsworthy about your business, your press release is more likely to remain intact, particularly if journalists are on a tight deadline.
- Cut to the Chase. Journalists mostly read the first two paragraphs of a press release. If you have a very specific story to tell, create a newsbrief, a very short press release which gets to the kernal of the story.
- Create a Profile Piece. Send in a general press release that introduces the journalist to you and your business. You’re giving the journalist freedom to mould your business into a newsworthy story.l
Throughout my journalism career, I have found that the best interviewees were the ones who weren’t too self conscious about how they came across. They treated the interview as a conversation and were happy to fit in with the format of the article or radio feature I was compiling. If you’re going to send a press release into a media outlet, you need to be willing to relinquish a little control. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results. The less you worry about how you come across, the easier it will be to do yourself and your business justice.