pr strategy… Distribute the “Necessary-but-Not-Hot-News” Press Release by Shirley Skeel

You’ve got your press release ready. Now what?

The Annapolis Group list serve (for independent liberal arts colleges) had a flutter of activity recently about the fine art of sending out press releases. Is mass mailing still acceptable? How do you keep harried reporters informed, but not irritated?

One media relations officer said that, for local coverage, she mass-mails to a standard distribution list. For national coverage, she begins with the news services, such as EuerkAlert and the News Media Yellow Book, and chooses specific newsrooms.

Another officer said he is very choosy about where he sends each press release. He always sends individual emails, and he suggests that if an email “looks like a blast (even a small one)” reporters “will toss it.”

I disagree. Speaking as a former reporter, reporters are single-minded creatures—They want a story. That’s it. Whether it comes in an email blast or off the back of a corn flake box does not matter.

I do agree that you have to be choosy to prevent reporter ennui. I use “email blasts” or individual mailings, or a combination, depending on the story—but even with the blasts, I hand pick the recipients each time.

However the art can get pretty icky, sticky, tricky. There are times when you and your institution are proud of an event, but it’s as likely to get press coverage as my husband is to give up smoking (sorry darling). And the last thing you want is for reporters to stop opening your emails because you send out too many flimsy releases.

So far my approach has been NOT to send the “necessary but not hot news” release to individual reporters. Instead I send it to general news desks, such as (but what if the news editor opens this!!??) and to community media who just may take an interest. If my institutional conscience is really nagging, I also send it to a few known beat reporters with a gentle note asking them to pass it on if someone happens to be collecting stories on this topic.

It’s not perfect. And I’ve known at least one purist who would say, “Just don’t send them out.” That’s tough to swallow.

What strategies do you use to get out those “necessary-but-not-hot” releases?

SHIRLEY SKEEL is Media Relations Manager at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She can be reached at