“Let’s get a press release out on that!”
When PR professionals hear a client utter this phrase, headaches often follow. Why? Despite the press release’s status as the traditional center of public relations, there’s a misconception about the purpose a press release serves and what results it brings today.
Let’s take a step back. A few years ago, press releases were, in fact, necessary for informing the media: they were the only option. A PR consultant typed a release out, put it in an envelope and mailed it to the newspaper. Then, they faxed it. Or, they put it out over the “wire”, a service that distributed your release to the hundreds of newsrooms across the country.
Today, we have dozens of faster communications tools at our disposal, and a press release isn’t as necessary as it once was. Quite often, another form of media communication gets better results: The Pitch.
What’s the difference between a press release and a pitch? Formality. A press release documents something newsworthy or historical. Because they are fact-based, press releases are also good for SEO. Events that call for a press release could include:
- Product Launches
- Executive Hires
- Partnership Announcements
- Financial/Annual Report Disclosures
On the other hand, a pitch often provides the color commentary to go alongside the release. Where the press release is factual (“Company X Launches New Ballpoint Pen Ink”), a pitch can be opinionated: “Never buy ink again!”
In short, a press release is primarily quantitative, while a pitch is more qualitative.
I’ve heard a pitch referred to as a cover letter, and while I like the analogy, I think it’s a bit of a misnomer. The pitch doesn’t have to accompany anything: it can stand alone. In fact, regular pitching is a great way to keep clients at the front of media contacts’ minds in between the major milestones. These standalone pitches can range from brief updates on company goings-on to expert commentary on relevant trends or current events.
And what makes a successful pitch? Hint: It’s all about the subject line. Like the headline of a press release or news story, a succinct, engaging subject line is the first impression that helps a pitch rise above the inbox noise to catch a reader’s eye.
Did you know? Pitches can even be sent via tweets!