This is because we suspect they are hoping to see a very long list but the truth is that in this area, bigger is not necessarily better.
In fact, if the distribution list for a media release is extended well beyond the small number of publications that are likely to run it, the effect can be similar to “crying wolf” – it desensitises the journalist to your future releases and makes them more likely to be overlooked even when they are relevant.
This is an issue that we see from both sides because we send and follow up media releases for many clients but we also operate as de-facto journalists providing news content to a number of publications.
In this capacity we receive media releases so we get to see who is routinely sending out irrelevant material.
From my observation, the biggest culprit is organisations who are using a media release distribution service instead of a public relations firm.
There are a number of these services in Australia and it is easy to get them to distribute a release to many hundreds of journalists at once, but instead of improving your chance of a run, this just annoys people.
To take one example among many, we have a client who runs a publication for the property industry.
In the past month or so, this client has received releases from the CSIRO with titles such as:
- Technology brings iconic ship to classroom shores
- Glowing fingerprints to fight crime
- Seashells to deliver new drugs and vaccines
Needless to say these are completely irrelevant to the publication and we have never heard from the CSIRO with a follow up call or anything to indicate they know we exist. Someday they will no doubt send us a media release relevant to the property industry but we will likely miss it because we will assume it is more spam. By contrast, imagine if we had never received a release from the CSIRO and one arrived for the first time. We would read it with interest. If it was relevant, that would assure we read a second release down the track and so on.
Sadly, this situation is not unusual for a company relying on a media release distribution service.
If you doubt that this approach is counterproductive, don’t take my word for it. Here is former Fairfax section editor Dan Kaufman in his book: Dealing with grumpy editors.
“You might think you have nothing to lose by sending these releases off to every publication in town but all it does is desensitise us to anything associated with your company or your client,” Kaufman said.
“The gamble will not only probably fail, but it will put the odds even further against you for future releases.”
“Aside from the ethics of taking someone’s money when you know what they’re asking you to do is going to lead to failure, in the long term it’s also bad for business – remember it’s the PRs who only send newsy and relevant releases that editors and journos always pay attention to.”
As PR’s we are all guilty from time-to-time of sending media releases to too many journalists but if you eliminate the element of personal judgement and use a generic list from a distribution service you can virtually guarantee that this will happen every time and your announcements will fall on increasingly deaf ears.