Five major myths of media relations

1. Press releases must be short

Despite thousands of websites claiming that press releases must be short, experience shows the opposite. High-profile news stories in newspapers require meat behind them, which mean longer press releases containing the detail that reporters need. Many of the short press releases I see lack compelling content – they’re short because they have little to say. It’s not unusual for the most high-profile organisations to send out 700-900 word releases.

2. Never ring a journalist

If you survey journalists asking how they would prefer to be contacted, they’ll say by email. But the reason most media relations activity fails is because the stories aren’t “sold” properly to the media. Journalists say they hate phone calls because they’re used to inexperienced PR officers ringing to ask if they received a press release. But calling to offer genuine value not only works, but is appreciated.

3. The modern speed of communication means that stories should go out “for immediate release”

If you’re a FTSE100 company or a government department, sending out press releases to a large distribution list with “for immediate release” can work well. But the approach of “spray and pray” has downsides. The risk is that a story will gain no coverage at all, and then be seen as old news. Often it is much better to make a list, according to importance, of the media outlets you’d like the story to appear in, and then get on the phone until someone agrees to use it, and with a commitment about date.

4. The media wants pre-written case studies

Quality media outlets want to do their own interviews. Having people available to be interviewed at short notices is extremely helpful, but submitting pre-written or recorded interviews to a national newspaper or broadcaster isn’t going to be successful.

5. Newspapers no longer matter

Nearly 900,000 people read The London Evening Standard in print every day. Over 2m people read The Sun. Newspapers have an amazing ability to reach influential audiences – and the content mostly gets used online, where newspaper groups are enjoying their highest readerships in history. The truth is that social media and newspaper have a symbiotic relationship.

Follow Alex Singleton on Twitter: @AlexSingletonuk