Monday, January 4, 2010

The one press release that should be eliminated in 2010

For 2010, in keeping with my "green" crusade to rid the world of public relations waste, I have declared that all press releases for almost all awards must be eliminated.

Other than global honors which have been around for decades and actually have meaning and impact such the Academy Awards, Grammys, Emmys, the Nobel Peace Prize and perhaps the Webbys, there is hardly an award out there that merits a press release.

My call to duty is based on one simple theory: if the award is important enough, the people who should know about it will.

For example, if you're a magazine that made Adweek's annual Hot List, then it will be in all the copies of Adweek, Mediaweek and Brandweek, and their respective web sites, attracting the industry trade publicity it merits. There is no need to waste time issuing a press release trumpeting landing on the list, stuffing it with all the usual "we are thrilled"nonsense and sending it out over the wires or to anybody else for that matter. Everybody who needs to know you won knows already. Who are you going to issue your release to -- Adweek's competitors? Take your award, hang it on your wall, insert an ad in the NY Times if you really feel rich, let your marketing department stamp it on everything, and your sales force has some new ammunition.

I know this is correcting years of publicity Pavlovian response to any award given out, but really -- nobody is going to read or care about your award press release.

Don't believe me? Read these explanations straight from the media's mouth...

"Not sure that I've ever written about any company winning any award for anything," says Peter Kafka, author of AllThingsD's Media Memo, part of The Wall Street Journal.

When asked if a company wins an award makes a difference to them, an industry reporter at a large newspaper replied: "Not really, unless it's a JD Power award of some sort." Would you ever write about a company winning an award: "Don't think I ever have or ever will." Which awards would you consider meaningful or meaningless? "Excluding Oscars, Pulitzers and Grammys, most are meaningless from a coverage point of view."

From a trade publication reporter: "Few awards are worth covering as news. Usually the top annual prizes in a given industry, and possibly some quirky other handout that people might find funny or interesting, generate enough reader interest that they're worth covering. But even the top annual prizes have very modest impact on the winners and losers after awards night is over. They possibly provide a little job security for whoever's most responsible for the win, and a win for a small contender over big favorites can help with visibility, but it's hard to see effects beyond that. Awards are also by their nature as publicized as possible as they happen, so structurally it's hard for them to offer reporters a chance to tell their audience something everyone else isn't already telling them."

Awards are about as common as TMZ stopping celebrities in front of Hollywood grocery stores. Trade organizations and publications give them out like candy every year. They're very nice, mazel tov, we're glad you took home the prize. They're like opinions -- everybody's got one.

I've had clients who have won awards for things they have either not applied for or didn't even know the award existed! My big red flag for dubious awards is when they distribute pre-written press releases to the winners, packaged with quotes and descriptions, knowing that winner's knee jerk reaction will be to issue it over a paid wire service, thereby improving the award's search engine visibility.

If only one publication reports an industry's awards, that's as far as it should get and that's all who really cares.

Water seeks its own weight, and it's no different with press releases.

VC's and advertisers are wise to awards that matter. They know which ones have real meaning and which are marketing ploys. Getting overzealous about second and third rate honors can only backfire and show you're playing in the sandbox while the big boys aim higher.

You want to do your part in keeping a green planet this year? If you're a publicist, marketing executive or CEO, before you're ready to pollute the in-boxes of countless journalists and pay good money to appear on press release storage sites like and through paid wires, think to yourselves: Doesn't everybody who matters know this already?

If you can go a whole year without issuing a press release about an award, you actually deserve an award. Just please don't issue a press release about it if I give it to you.


Molly Parsley said...

These announcements are good for your company web site and to have them on the wire so they are searchable, but should not be pitched to reporters as news.

It's good to have the info together for any clients that might be looking into your agency.

Darika said...

Also, a lot of awards already have media partners on board or are run by a publishing house so trying to get coverage additional coverage is futile.

Saying that, I agree with Molly it is OK to release something - but online for Search purposes, don't pitch it to real journos who are looking for stories (Incidentally journalists may find those stories in future as part of research).

David Reich said...

Good advice. Also in the same category -- business anniversaries. The fact that a company is celebrating 5, 10 or even 100 years in business is of little or no interest to most people and certainly not reporters.

oliver said...

Haha very true, can't see it changing anytime soon though... that would involve us agency PR folk explaining to our clients that no one cares about their stupid award... believe me it's far easier just to issue an fire and forget, sorry journos x

Tom Gable said...

Agree on posting to Web site and having the case histories available for showing capabilities to potential clients. But not for general release. Also, on "thrilled and excited," wholeheartedly agree. We pulled examples from several news releases and posted them last year. A little light reading: