Should you write your own press releases?

Every day of every week a certain number of passenger aircraft taxi onto runways and take to the skies with seats left unfilled. The airlines in question have done everything they need to do to run a service. They have deployed the crew, put fuel in the planes and loaded up the galleys with coffee and food. What they haven’t done is attract enough passengers to make the flights viable. Or to put it another way, they’ve missed out an opportunity to fill the planes and make a profit.

Moving a startup business from the “stealth mode” of the development phase and making it visible to a market of customers, advocates and potential investors can present similar challenges. It’s all too common to see startups doing the groundwork in terms of securing Seed investment and building a great product and yet failing to capture the attention of a sufficient number of customers.

And here’s the risk. All early-stage companies face a limited window of opportunity to win customers when they bring a new product to the market. The timeframe might be a few months or several years but at some point, the Seed finance will run out or potential buyers will look elsewhere and move on.

So you really have to make the most of the available window and press coverage can and should play a vitally important role in exposing your business to its target audience. Far from being a formality, an effective media communication strategy is vital. If you don’t get it right – and that essentially means securing coverage in appropriate publications – you will miss out on opportunities simply because the market doesn’t know you are there.

And that’s particularly true if you opt to craft your own releases without professional help.

The Role of Press Coverage

Think of it this way. There are many ways you can get your message across to customers, including advertising, social media and self-produced content. But press coverage has a special place in the mix, not least because it is independent. A journalist may not endorse your product or service – that’s not really the job of journalism – but in choosing to write about what you do, he or she confers a degree of credibility. The underlying message is: “I find this company interesting and maybe you should too.”

So, a press release – or indeed any form of communication sent out to publications – should be seen as means of opening a door that will let the light shine in. But here’s the problem. Most journalists receive hundreds of releases every week and you can’t take it for granted that the recipient will read beyond the first paragraph – or even the e-mail header. To be effective, your communications have to stand out. The best way to achieve that is to work with professionals who know the media landscape.

The DIY Question

You can adopt a DIY approach. There are, certainly, platforms that will assist you in creating press releases in-house. They provide guidance, content creation tools and a means to construct and manage a mailing list.

But there is a question you should ask before going down the DIY pathway: do you have the necessary industry knowledge and professional communication skills required to create an effective campaign?

If the answer to that question is “no” or “maybe not”; then the chances are it will more cost-effective in the longer term to work with an agency that fully understands the media landscape.

An Independent Eye 

So what does an agency, such as Innowire, bring to the party? Well, perhaps most fundamentally, PR professionals bring a fresh perspective to the development of a company story.

Let’s take an example. Founders tend to know everything there is to know about the products their teams have developed and in the tech sector, much of that knowledge will be focused on the technology itself and the target market.

That’s certainly not a bad thing. But a press release that focuses on, say, the technology alone, won’t necessarily capture the imagination of a hard-pressed writer. By bringing in independent eyes, an agency will help its client develop key messaging points and angles – perhaps combined with an inspiring founder story – that a management team might overlook.

Or to put it another way, the agency will use its industry knowledge to build a narrative that will resonate with target journalists.

Beyond Plain Vanilla

That narrative extends beyond the act of sending out a press release at milestone moments – say when a product goes public or funding is raised. It’s actually quite difficult to construct a single press release that will capture the attention of “Journalist A” who covers tech from a business perspective, “Journalist B” who focuses on software development, and “Journalist C” who reviews new products.

But a good agency will tailor the message to individual journalists. That doesn’t necessarily mean different versions of the press release. Often it is about prefacing the release with a personalized summary emphasizing the story angles that might be interesting to a particular writer. It’s a simple thing to do, but to do it effectively requires time and in-depth knowledge of key writers and their specialisms.

The Bigger Picture

In any sector, there is a bigger news agenda. Look at virtually any of the hot-button technology segments – A.I., blockchain, robotics, to take three examples – and there is an evolving narrative around topics such as regulation, data protection, employment, customer expectation and social impact.

In addition to crafting communications, an agency will use its contacts to slot clients into the wider industry narrative – for instance by putting forward a founder as a thought leader, expert commentator or guest blogger. The key is to use industry knowledge to identify the opportunities to win coverage in this way.

Focus on the Brand

And ultimately, using an agency frees up resources. Few founders really have enough available time to lavish attention on media strategy. By using an agency, you are effectively buying in expertise and outsourcing the effort that is required to mount an impactful campaign.

A  new business may have a relatively small window of opportunity to make an impact. Input from an agency provides the best opportunity to use that window effectively and ensure – metaphorically speaking – that the plane takes to the air with all seats filled.

 

 

 

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David Niki

CMO at Innowire Advisory, helping #blockchain , #ai and #technology companies with their marketing and PR

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