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Keep the Press Release in Your Utility Public Relations Toolkit

If your utility is like most of its brethren, the press release has long been a staple of your media outreach efforts.

But a recent study by Muck Rack and Zeno Group throws some doubt on the validity of continuing that strategy. The study said that just 3 percent of journalists surveyed worldwide “rely heavily” on press releases sent via newswires, while 53 percent of U.S. journalists said they don’t rely on them at all.

Sounds kind of scary, huh?

Not really.

Most journalists do prefer to find their own stories, but that doesn’t always happen. Stories fall through or have to be held for various reasons. Because newspapers and websites don’t feature white space in place of articles, TV stations avoid test patterns and radio stations don’t have “dead air,” story ideas need to be formulated at a moment’s notice.

Just today at my day job, a story fell through, so (because we’re on tight holiday deadlines) we turned to a press release for a replacement. While the original story would have been better, beggars can’t always be choosers.

For another thing, while half of journalists say they don’t use them — a stat that seems a bit questionable — the other half of them do.

Also note that the survey might be skewed because it specifies releases sent via newswires. Reporters are bombarded with newswire press releases which often are irrelevant: An energy reporter in Boston isn’t going to care about the earnings report of a Portland, Ore., utility — let alone news that a Texas-based burger chain announced plans to expand into Oklahoma.

I’m guessing that press releases that aren’t sent via newswires get more traction because they’re likely to be better targeted.

And press releases have other value.

Some journalists save them for background information, contact information or potential future sourcing. Be sure to always include multiple methods for contacting your PR team. Include links to other information, including logos, visuals and social media.

That said, press releases should not be a be-all, end-all in your utilities media strategy, which should also include a strong website, blogging, active social media campaign, community events, sponsorships and one-on-one relationships with journalists.

Andy Gotlieb's picture

Thank Andy for the Post!

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