collaborate to create stories, not announcements

Sometimes the heart sinks when you've got a press release to write. You know deep down it's got little chance of coverage. But here's an approach that could work.

by Eleanor Willock

I read this blog post by Charles Arthur, the technology editor at The Guardian. It really got me bought in. He’s got a unique style, and I really agree with the subject. Charles points out, for what I’m sure he hopes will be the last time to his PR audience - the difference between ‘news’ and ‘an announcement’.

I think a lot of us, sadly, know the difference, but are sometimes pushed to release the latter under the guise of the former. It’s one of the pitfalls of being in PR – sometimes, there’s no telling people, it’s just not news. Be honest - in your earlier career years, I won’t have been the only one who forwarded on a ‘get lost’ email response from a journalist (such as Charles) in response to my feeble pitch, to a client, in order to back up my quietly mumbled perspective that the press release won’t be well received, surely?

Nowadays, we’re straighter with our clients, they appreciate our honesty, and we get them better stories by creating the news using a far better tool – the collaborative approach. We work with other ‘sides of the story’ to create something readers really would be interested in.

How can this work? Here’s three ways:

  • ·       If you’re a Local Government press officer, rather than having to fend off keen IT vendors wanting to say that you use their stuff, why not look at the reasons why technology is making your service to citizens stand out and collaborate with the key vendors to tell the story as a group? Public Sector press, national press and of course the IT press love this approach, and other Local Authorities love to hear and learn from the challenges and achievements of others, both in print and in person.
  • ·       If you’ve been asked to raise the profile of an executive, but aren’t having much luck with the usual profile pieces, ask them to name the two people that they have most enjoyed collaborating with, and what they’ve achieved, and pitch a larger angle.       

Collaboration increases the chances of learning and enriching the story you’re trying to tell. Even if you’re giving airtime to the other side of the coin, two voices are better than one. As Helen Keller said, “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” 

If you’d like to be inspired a bit more about the topic, I recommend:

TED Talks have an entire theme page on The Rise of Collaboration http://www.ted.com/themes/the_rise_of_collaboration.html

 My favourite talk is this one from Israeli conductor Itay Talgem from 2009. He says: “[A conductor's] happiness does not come from only his own story and his joy of the music. The joy is about enabling other people's stories to be heard at the same time.” http://bit.ly/O8Eh2f

Eleanor Willock is a director at Mantis PR the UK’s only specialist communications agency for technology suppliers to the public sector.

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