Friday, February 26, 2010

How to speed up press release approvals

Sometimes it's better not to write a press release at all, just to avoid the horrid approval process. You had might as well just pick up the phone and call each journalist individually with your news.

Once any legal department gets involved, you may was well go on vacation and be well rested just in time for the document's sign off.

Last year, I was working on a project when a press release draft about the results of a joint venture was sent my way that needed to be updated. Apparently, it was originally written three months earlier, and for one reason or another, fell into suspended animation, only to be revived.

Over a period of seven days, I edited and rewrote the release a few more times to bring it up to date with current data and results, carefully positioning it with my client and their partner so that we hit on all the right points. My client said, and I do recall this because I have the e-mail: "We should send this out next Thursday."

That "next Thursday" never arrived. You see, the partner cited examples from third party companies in the release, and they needed their sign-offs on their mere mentions. Suddenly, progress on the release went dead silent.

Like crop circles and Stonehenge, we may never know the results of this joint venture.

As much as I disdain press release reliance, I have discovered over the years that there are ways to avoid the dreaded approval delays:

* Don't write a press release. If it looks like the approval process is going to be a marathon, why bother cranking out another masterpiece? Get agreement from all parties that the process may hinder the news, start picking up the phone and call the right reporters who would be interested in this news. Accompany that with personally-written e-mails explaining what's going on.

You'll find that there are some companies who are allergic to press releases. They break out in hives and get cold feet when something is committed in an official form on paper. But somehow, spreading the news by more "casual" means is acceptable -- telephone or casual e-mail.

* Avoid third party quotes. This is especially true if your announcement involves multiple parties. What you do for one, you must do for all. The only quote should come from your client or employer, and leave it at that. Once you start soliciting all the outside parties for official quotes, you are not only setting yourself up for an unreadable bloated release, but you might as well get on the local DMV line because that will probably move much faster by comparison.

* Give them deadlines. Admittedly, this is a touchy approach, but I've seen it work, depending on the tone and and wording. You want sign off on a timely basis? Inform them of your deadline -- all comments and corrections must be back by this date. You want to get a little harsher? Add that if you don't hear from them by that date, you'll assume everything in the release is satisfactory. Let them know a specific date that the release is "absolutely" going out. You have to be a good judge of who you're dealing with when imposing deadlines. Usually a friendly, firm stating of the due date is all you need.

1 comment:

Stephen Petit said...

Saw this headline on LinkedIn and thought you were asking a question, so I quickly thought of some answers: cut down on quoted sources, give them deadlines, etc.

Spot-on (although I'd never assume approval until I have something in writing). For some clients, I write for the legal department. I know I'm not the only one, given the language I see in so many releases.