Five times you’ll still have to send out a news release

Last week, I said you should kill your news release and go with pitches to get coverage.

However, ol’ man news release is a ghost that will still haunt the beige cubicles of communications departments throughout corporate Canada. Thanks to its long legacy, his memory lives on, oftentimes in the minds of those who are non-communications people.

You’ll want to pick your battles and make sure you’re not on the losing side of a news release tug of war. In each of these instances, it’s up to you to squeeze the story angle out of the announcement.

The following are among the few remaining instances that you’ll still have to issue a news release:

  1. You work in a regulated industry

Congratulations! Your organization requires the services of a communications professional by law. 

While these releases will likely delve into the arcane world of regulatory jargon, your job should still be to elevate the language to something your audience understands while remaining as accurate as possible. This will require some negotiation with your regulatory department.

Also, don’t discount getting coverage on these kinds of releases. Many industry publications and analysts will be interested in this news. If you work for a utility supported by ratepayers, you can bet your assets that reporters and your customers will want to know what’s going on with this quarter’s rates.

2. Someone already negotiated an agreement. Keeping your ear to the ground at your organization is part of your job, but you’re not going to catch everything. Sometimes, project managers on the operations side of your business will negotiate business deals with external contractors who don’t have a communications team of their own. The agreement will often require that a joint news release be issued to announce a project milestone. If they had looped you in earlier, it might be a different story, but if it’s in a legal contract that’s already been signed, it’s probably not a good idea to push back on this one. Sometimes, these can be newsworthy. In many cases, it serves the interests of the contractor providing the services to your organization.

3. Stakeholder expectations have been set. In a vein similar to the one above, a non-communications person will have promised issuing a news release on a specific initiative without speaking to you first. For example, many organizations issue awards to their best customers or clients, and these clients are expecting to see their name in black and white on a newswire web page. There is definitely a market for these kinds of awards stories, it just may not be as extensive as everyone imagines.

4. Internal cohesion. Believe it or not, issuing a news release is sometimes used to promote internal cohesion. While other approaches may be better, these instances take place when a nascent committee initiative has been developed by your organization and participants need an indicator of its legitimacy. For these groups, an external facing, “official” news release from the organization serves as a marker that what they’re doing is tangible. When this ask hits your desk, don’t despair. While they may not be generating newsworthy material now, it will give you an excuse to delve into the new initiative and see what’s on the horizon, giving you time to plan accordingly. 

5. Official record. Sometimes, a news release needs to happen just because something needs to be in writing. At some time in the future, the organization can point to what they previously communicated to show that certain information was originally disclosed at a time when it may not have been newsworthy. If you’re doing this, it is likely part of a larger approach. It should prompt you to ask more questions about the underlying reason this is being done.

Bonus reason:

“Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Tradition. It’s a powerful thing. Just try telling a six-year-old you’re cancelling Christmas. This is clearly not a strategic excuse, so it gives you an opportunity to ask questions about the real objective behind issuing a release. Outline the cost to your organization to produce this kind of release and suggest a more efficient alternative that will get you closer to those objectives.

News releases don’t just happen. There’s a reason behind them. Understanding the reasons for requiring them will allow you to shape your organization’s tactics to serve its strategy. Change won’t happen overnight, but awareness is the first step.