Don’t Get Stuck with Knee-Jerk PR


It’s an easy trap to fall into. Make a new hire? Put out a press release. Redesign your website? Put out a press release. Move to a new building? Put out a press release.

Yada. Yada. Yada.

These types of “news” announcements have the makings of what I call knee-jerk PR. Now, that doesn’t mean these events don’t have any value. The new hire may be something important for your staff and customers to know about. The website may have some great new content. The new building may be news to your local community. Perhaps.

The problem comes when such announcements become the bread and butter of your PR program. That’s a clear sign that something is off.

A PR program that generates results must be based on your overall business strategy and either drive toward your key goals or address your core challenges. If your company is expanding into a new business, develop stories about that. If you are having a problem with your organization’s reputation, then your PR communications should address this issue. Firing out a blizzard of extraneous, non-strategic press releases will not help.

Let’s look at this another way, from the press-release consumer’s perspective. Reporters are quite sophisticated about PR and marketing. If you ever have a chance to look at a reporter’s inbox, you’ll see dozens and dozens of unsolicited press releases and story pitches.

Breaking through the noise, even for a company regularly covered by a particular reporter, requires a real story. Actual news. Something substantive. A busy reporter is not going to look twice at a release about a mid-level hire, a website with a new color scheme, or a move from one building to another down the block.

There’s always been the argument that companies need to keep up a certain news flow to generate “momentum.” This is true to some extent, but only if these momentum releases are newsworthy. Otherwise, they are little more than spam. You can actually end up annoying the reporters you are trying to impress.

Here’s a quick exercise that will tell you quickly whether your outreach to the press is falling into this knee-jerk category.

Look at your website’s list of press releases, most recent first. Open up each one and read the headlines and the first paragraph or two. Ask the following questions:

  • Is this release newsworthy? Specifically, have you even seen reporters write stories about this type of news? Be honest here. A personnel announcement about a new CEO is very different than one about a new sales associate.
  • Is this press release strategic? Does the news discussed have anything to do with your business strategy? Or is it entirely extraneous?

Jot down the answers and then look at what you’ve got. If you’ve been engaging in knee-jerk PR, you’ll know it.

Then, the only challenge is fixing it. But you’ve gone a long way already by identifying the problem.