No Really—They Told Us So!
To borrow a well-known phrase (thanks Mr. Twain), the reports of News Releases’ death have been greatly exaggerated. Not only do releases continue to have a value for brands, helping them break through clutter, build legitimacy, and create a steady stream of sharable content, the truth is, many journalists still love them also.
Here at PWR New Media, we recently surveyed over 200 journalists, asking them about their news release preferences. Not surprisingly, we found that journalists now have fewer resources but more responsibilities than ever before. Sixty-eight percent of our participants reported that they’re responsible for creating online content in addition to their more traditional duties. This means they need story ideas and digital content… constantly!
News Releases, done right, can be a terrific resource for journalists, making it easy for them to find new story ideas and giving them easy access to web-friendly content.
Did you catch that “done right”? I’ll confess: I have a strong opinion regarding exactly what that means. In today’s digital world, news releases should be loaded with easily transferable multi-media assets and be social-media friendly. And, they should reach journalists where they organize, archive and research story ideas: their own inboxes. Eighty-eight percent of journalists told us they want releases delivered via email. (Conversely, 5% said they want release via snail mail, 1% said via online newsrooms or RSS, and 0% said via wire service or social media.) And asked how they research stories, search (83%) and their own inboxes (70%) topped the list. (Social did well also, with 57% of journalists saying they’ve got story ideas from social media… just one more reason for brands to share releases on their social platforms.)
Images are a key asset. Not only did a vast majority (78%) of journalists tell us they want high-res images in their releases, 77% told us they were actually more likely to pick up a release and run with it if it included transferable images. (If you’re reading this and thinking about attaching big images to your next email, just stop. I can’t tell you how often—usually in our open-ended question about what they want PR professionals to know about their release preferences—we hear “no attachments.”)
Video is increasingly in demand by journalists. This year, 40% said they wanted web-quality video, 38% said they wanted video players with a transferable embed code, and 26% wanted broadcast quality video.
Other web content is also useful for journalists. For example, infographics were cited as (very) important by 40% and links to relevant blog topics by 46%.
And, making them social-media friendly is also a must. Forty-one percent of our respondents told us they want information on a brand’s social platforms so they can visit or follow and 26% said they want social media bookmarks so they can easily share and archive the release.
But here’s one final surprise about journalists: turns out, they’re people. Oh, you already knew that? Okay, but did you also know that people—a category which, as we’ve established, includes journalists—experience the world around them through their eyes above all and process visual information faster and better. What does this have to do with news releases? Traditionally nothing, but with the value of visual storytelling, news releases can truly benefit from a design overhaul. There is no reason to send an email that is not highly branded to convey the brand identity at a glance. (Why spend your brand’s money to send out a release branded with the sender’s logo and color scheme?) And with the amount of clutter in most inboxes, a good looking release can really stand out and grab attention.
So 680 words later, what’s my point? Sending well-targeted, highly-branded releases as HTML emails, loaded with the multi-media assets and social friendly functionality (tweetable quotes are our fav of the moment) not only elevates a brand, but can make journalists lives easier. And one thing I’ve learned having worked with PR folks for over ten years, is that good PR professionals heart journalists.
Ok, incredibly stupid question here. If they want a high res image but not an attachment, how am I supposed to get it to them? They want it embedded in the email?
Hi Audrey. There are no stupid questions! Yes, we embed them in our releases with links to high res and low res options… and sometimes things like embeddable slideshows, etc. But if that’s a stretch, I would suggest just links so they can easily find and download usable images. Hope that helps.
I had the same question after reading the article. “Transferable images” isn’t clear to me. Does this mean including a link to images?
You can attach it as a link to e.g. folder on your Drobox / any other Cloud Storage provider. Drobox is a good choice, because it lets the viewer see the thumbnails of the actual photos.
Do not embed files in the email as that way they are still being instantly streamed, and it may annoy time scarce journalists.
I’d suggest looking into file transfer services like YouSendIt or even Dropbox, Box or other cloud based file sharing services.
The email could very well include smaller HTML embedded image previews to give the journalist an idea of what you have available for them.
However! I’d add one caveat: Many times, email programs (Outlook, Google, Mail) will automatically block HTML heavy emails, or simply shunt them right into the trash. So, for my money, these hugely helpful releases are going to be best served to reporters you’ve already developed a strong relationship with. Those are the folks who will not have you emails flagged for the trash before they even lay eyes on them.
As a PR student, I have always heard about the importance of cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with journalists, because they are the key to getting the media coverage we and our brands so desperately desire. What I didn’t realize is how much journalists may rely on the news we provide. This is especially apparent when considering the statistic listed: that 68% of journalists are responsible for creating online content in addition to their traditional responsibilities. This supports the idea that now, more than ever, PR professionals should partner with journalists through providing quality, newsworthy releases. Furthermore, I agree with your assertion that PR professionals should provide “easily transferable multimedia assets and be social media friendly.” We are living in the digital age, after all! It was helpful to see the exact percentage of journalists who desire content including high-res images, video, infographics, links to relevant blog posts and, of course, the brands’ social media information. We can say so-long to the basic news release! The expression “give the people what they want” seems especially relevant here, and your blog does a great job outlining what journalists’ want when it comes to the delivery and content of news releases. You said good PR professionals heart journalists, and because of this blog I’ll be able to heart journalists a little better. Thank you for sharing!
Platform Magazine Writer/Editor