When shouldn’t you send a press release?

June 27, 2023

As a PR consultant, people often ask me “When should I send a press release?” It’s a good question and something I often run through with clients based on their specific situation and upcoming news. But today I'm going to focus on when you shouldn’t send a press release. A press release is a great tool but there are lots of times it isn’t the most appropriate format for your news. Today, to help you avoid a few pitfalls, we’re going to look at reasons not to send a press release. Because what’s the point of investing your time in a press release when it won’t have a good chance of media pick up? Surely, it’s better to focus on another format? So, here are a few reasons I’d recommend you don’t send a press release:

It's a tick box exercise

If you’re sending out a press release as a tick box exercise to please your stakeholders or board members, please reconsider. It’s really common when something happens that an organisation is excited about internally that they want to send a press release to shout about it externally. But it’s important to be honest with yourself. Is this news interesting for anyone outside your business? It takes time to plan, write and edit a press release. Not to mention managing approvals, distributing it to media and following up with your contacts. If you’re just sending your press release out because the higher-ups want you to, rather than because it’s a great story, it’s likely that you’ll be investing a lot of time for mediocre results.

Your story isn’t strong enough

Similar to the above, if you’re story isn’t strong enough for media, it might be worth reconsidering whether it’s worth sending a press release. This is where ‘the pub test’ comes in handy. Can you imagine your friends, or a group of strangers, reading about your news and talking about it down the pub? For example, if your organisation raised £1,000 for their chosen charity, that’s lovely and a great achievement… but is it a great story that people will want to tell others about? “Oh, wow, did you hear about that business that raised £1,000 for charity?” No, probably not.

But if you raised that money in a unique or interesting way, that could give you a story people would want to talk about. “Did you see the London Marathon the other day? There was a guy who ran the whole thing with a fridge on his back to raise money for Cancer Research UK. I can’t even run for the bus let alone doing a whole marathon while carrying a fridge!”

If you’re story isn’t strong enough for the press, perhaps it’s something you could share on your website, blog or social media channels – those are a great way to reach your audience too. 

You’re not ready for press coverage

While I don’t want people to put off approaching the press until they feel ‘entirely ready’ (as they never will), there are some instances when you’re not yet ready for press coverage. For example, imagine you’re a product-based business but your stock isn’t yet available for people to buy. You send out your press release and your new product gets featured on the Mail online. It’s seen by thousands of people. Hundreds of those go to your website to buy one of your items. And your website isn’t yet live. Or your product is out of stock. Or you can’t deliver to the country where you got coverage. You’ll annoy the potential customers who wanted to buy from you and you might not have the opportunity to win them back when you are ready.

The timing isn’t right

I’ve said before that PR and media relations is time intensive. A lot of work goes into drafting and perfecting a press release. So why shoot yourself in the foot by sending out a story on a date that it won’t get picked up? When planning an upcoming PR campaign, do your research to make sure there are no big news stories coming up that might overshadow your news. This could be the latest Budget announcement, a Royal wedding (or Jubilee celebrations!) or an election or referendum – the type of events that mean journalists are unlikely to be writing about much else. You can’t always predict them but, if you can, think about whether you can adjust the timing of your press release distribution to give yourself a better chance of getting coverage.   

I hope this gave you some food for thought about whether you really need to send out your next press release, or if there’s a more effective way of sharing your news. If you’d like to chat further about your PR strategy, I offer PR Power Hours to help for-purpose business owners get their comms in order. Or if you’re new to PR and just have a few questions, you might find my Ask Me Anything sessions useful to get you going. If you think we could be a good fit, I’d be happy to hear from you.

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