Staggered press releases - The pros and cons
Last week, I spent several hours giving some of the Sauce Communications team my thoughts about how to make press releases most useful for us journalists. I found it really useful to be reminded (from my own PR days) of the PR perspective and – ah, yes – of that one really obstinate client everyone seems to have! Ultimately, a lot of things that are very frustrating for journalists are equally frustrating for you PRs; maybe more so.
While preparing, I began thinking about those times when a press release’s distribution is clearly staggered. So, for instance, I might see a new story appear on Boutique Hotelier or the like – “Croydon hotel receives world-record 19th Michelin star”, say – then be sent the press release saying exactly the same a day or two later.
PR professionals stagger distribution for good reason. Often, if you want coverage in Publication A (e.g. Boutique Hotelier), the price of that is granting them an exclusive and potentially cheesing off Publications B, C and D. Ultimately, I suppose, it hinges on how important Publication A is to your client.
For me, though, this is troublesome in two ways. Firstly, if it’s clear that Boutique Hotelier (and possibly many others) received the press release quite a while before me, that feels faintly like a snub; like I’m on the mail-out B List. Ouch.
The second, more problematic scenario materialises if I don’t check Boutique Hotelier or anywhere else, instead assuming the release has just been mailed out for the first time, and excitedly pitch. My editor might reply: “That won’t work, Richard, the story is already out there,” – and I’ll look amateurish. That screw-up would at least partly be on me, though: it’s my responsibility to check a story’s exposure (or not) before pitching it.
Is there anything PRs can realistically do to prevent this scenario? You could possibly put a footnote on the release, apologetically specifying where coverage has already appeared – but I sense that might do more harm than good. You certainly mustn’t give the same title the exclusive every time; it’ll render other publications permanently disinclined to feature your client. And you should stagger the release’s mail-out in a maximum of two waves: to the publication receiving the exclusive, and then to everyone else at the same time.
What Richard Thinks…