Pitches and press releases are the two most basic tools in any PR practitioner’s toolbox. They’re both ways of getting information to the press in the hopes that the media will pick up your story, but the two are are very different in form, function, and purpose. Savvy small business owners should use both to build buzz for their business.
Perhaps more familiar to outsiders is the press release. A press release is a piece that covers a (hopefully) newsworthy bit of information in a very journalistic fashion. A good press release will be written in AP Style, the style most commonly used by journalists, so that portions of it can be used wholesale in a newspaper or on a website.
More importantly, a press release is usually widely distributed. I call this carpet bombing: sending the press release to a wide variety of possibly interested parties in the hopes that they might be interested in the story. Obviously, this technique doesn’t always work. But press releases remain handy for posting on aggregating websites like indy-biz.com or dbusinessnews.com. You might get lucky and an interested party might see it, and if nothing else, you get some nice SEO link juice.
On the other hand, a pitch is usually a more informal letter or email sent to a particular journalist. A good PR practitioner will take the time to research their target: what do they write about? What’s their style? What are some of their recent articles like? With this information in hand, a PR practitioner can craft a personalized note to the journalist telling them why they may be interested in this story.
The drawback to a pitch is that it can take quite a bit of time to research appropriate journalists, read some of their past material, write the initial pitch, and then follow up with a phone call. This, unfortunately, makes pitches more expensive, but infinitely more effective, than press releases.
So are press releases useless? No. As I mentioned above, press releases are still great for bumping SEO and getting a nice little traffic spike to your website. And you never know: you may get lucky and get a great placement from one. Your best bet? Write pitches to a few hand-picked journalists, and save your press releases for the mass market.
Do you have a story which you believe needs a pitch or a press release? Give me a call!
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