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PR Agency Perspectives: How to Explain the Press Release vs. Media Pitch to Clients

Erika Taylor MontgomeryBy Erika Taylor Montgomery, CEO/Chief Publicist and Founder, Three Girls Media

We’ve all heard it before: Clients requesting press releases over and over again, as the quick and easy solution to end up in major media outlets like “Good Morning America,” Cosmopolitan, The New York Times or even BuzzFeed. But, as we all know, press releases have their time and place, however they aren’t the way to secure this type of coverage. Reporters and producers’ email spam filters will cut them out, and if they don’t, releases will be skipped or deleted as the journalist skims through the hundreds of messages in their inbox.

The Reality About Press Releases

Industry research—and experiences from countless PR pros like you and me—prove time and again that quick, snappy, personalized email pitches are much more likely to achieve the results your clients desire.

How do you explain to your clients what they need to know, so they don’t keep running to the press release as the end-all, be-all solution for obtaining editorial media coverage?

Educating Clients: Press Releases vs. Media Pitches

Erika Taylor Montgomery

One of my favorite analogies is to relate the media pitch and press release to a cover letter and resume: As nearly every employed adult knows, a cover letter gives your resume context. It gives the candidate an opportunity to highlight why the potential employer should consider them for the position. The best cover letters are personalized, calling out details from the job posting and the company’s website, showing the recipient the applicant did their homework, and put time and effort into their email, which conveys the importance of the position. Then, once the applicant has piqued the hiring manager’s interest, they can open the resume for more details about the applicant.

Similarly, a pitch letter provides context for a press release. It tells the reporter specifically why their readers, viewers or listeners would be interested in the news or story idea. When the pitch is personalized to reference specifics about what the reporter covers, or mentions articles or segments the journalist covered, it shows you’ve done your homework (rather than just spamming hundreds of people on a list), and gives them a taste of what it would be like to work with you. Then, once you’ve piqued their interest, they’re much more likely to actually take a look at the accompanying press release you sent or a link you provided (such as a link to the client’s press kit).

When Are Press Releases Appropriate?

Although this analogy isn’t perfect, I’ve found it to be a fantastic way to explain the purpose of a pitch letter versus a press release to clients. For those that really do push developing a press release, I always emphasize the following:

thinking cute young woman with question and exclamation signs in bubbles above head on blue background

  • What’s the purpose? If it’s to secure editorial media coverage, a stand-alone release won’t do it, however it can be used in conjunction with personalized media pitches.
  • Is it newsworthy? You can have the most amazing media contacts in the country, but if you don’t have a story that’s relevant to their readers, viewers or listeners, they aren’t going to cover it.
  • How will you promote it? The intended audience will allow you to fine-tune the release. Even with a wide distribution, you can tailor a release for the wires, inclusion in media pitches and/or the client’s website, social channels and email newsletter.

Have you come up with another way to explain the press release versus media pitch for your clients? What’s resonated well with them? And what additional points do you emphasize with them? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Erika Taylor Montgomery is the CEO/Chief Publicist and Founder of Three Girls Media Inc., a boutique public relations and content marketing firm in the greater Seattle area. She enjoyed an 18-year broadcasting career in the San Francisco Bay Area before transitioning to Public Relations 17 years ago, and has achieved thousands of media placements in major national outlets including The Wall Street Journal, InStyle, Oprah, USA Today, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

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