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10 alternatives to the press release

Earning media coverage remains a key task for many PR’s involved in media relations but a press release isn’t always the best tool for the job.  Here are some press release alternatives to help when planning PR:

1. Create a mini video on Vine

Head of UK Government communications, Alex Aiken, is encouraging staff to think content rather than press release and tweeted that this Vine is another way of moving on from the press release. The 6-second long video shows how much less a basic rate tax payer will have to pay and is a great way of announcing a simple message in a visual and engaging way.

2. Use a photograph

When planning PR, always consider visuals. Immediately attention grabbing, a good picture can connect emotionally and get an organisation into the news. Whether it’s a selfie taken at an event, a picture of an Olympic medalist in their home town next to a Royal Mail gold post box or a picture of a huge mass of fat, food and wet wipes (christened fatberg) blocking sewers managed by Thames Water – a good photograph can tell a story more quickly than words.

3. Use a data map, infographic or animation

Strong statistics can make a good news story, but rather than putting them into a complicated table within a press release – consider using a data map, animation or infographic. Here are some examples I like:

Twitter’s animation showing how the use of the word ‘sunrise’  correlates with the time of sunrise and sunset around the world is more powerful than any spreadsheet of Twitter user numbers.

Bloomberg’s ranking of the world’s richest people is simple and interactive.

And for Monty Python fans everywhere, this infographic maps the journey of the cast from 1963 up to the launch of a one-off show being staged in London in July 2014.

4. Customised email pitch to journalist

I believe that sending out one press release to journalist en mass is equivalent to sending out spam. I tend to have more success when I tailor my story pitch in a personalised email. I give the journalist a summary of the story, key facts and offer tools to help them make my client’s story their own.

5. Shoot a video to tell the story

When South Wales was hit with its heaviest snow fall in years, the local council decided to release news of what it was doing to safeguard the local community through a spoof video filmed locally. Key messages and news were woven into a rewritten version of Elvis’ ‘In the Ghetto’ song and performed by a local impersonator. The video caught the attention of national and local media, it became YouTube ‘s second most popular video and a post snow survey of social media followers showed that 97% were better informed of the council’s activities during the snow.

6. Tweet the announcement

Widely used by those in the entertainment industry who tweet news about thier relationships and launches to their fans, rather than issue a press release, Twitter has also been effectively used for reputation management. When UK Prime Minister, David Cameron alleged that TV comedian, Jimmy Carr, was tax dodging, Carr turned to Twitter to issue an apologetic short statement through Twitter rather than through an official press statement.

7. Blog it

In 2010 Google started releasing news through a blog post rather than a release and this set a precedent for other tech companies and according to Jonathan Rick, Dell and Netflix are amongst those who now use blogging to announce news. A blog post is often the answer for lesser news stories too and can then be shared through social media to reach key influencers and audiences.

8. Digital press release

Many organisations are now considering digital and social releases when planning PR. The Government of Canada has replaced its traditional look press releases with a more interactive digital format.  These feature succinct news, quick facts, quotes, quick access to additional resources and integrates more effectively with social channels.  I think that this could be the future of the press release and here’s an example of a social media press release from Neville Hobson.

9. Set up an interview

If you have a news story that is relevant to one or two key journalists, why not by-pass the press release altogether and offer the journalist an interview with a spokesperson.  Ensure that your spokesperson is fully briefed on messaging and on the angle the journalist is most likely to take.

10. Make your website a go-to place for news

Replace a dry, corporate website containing news with a more approachable site based on real story telling in the way that Coca Cola has done with its Coca Cola Journey launched in Nov 2012.  You’ll still find press releases tucked away in the press centre but Coca Cola’s version of ‘brand journalism’ is more enticing than a traditional press release.

I cover this topic in my Strategic PR Planning course and if you’d like to find out more about it, please do get in touch.

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