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Why I won't publish your press release? - Common PR errors I see every day.

classic article - published Sept 2000 - still true 9, 10, 11 and many more years later

see also:- what do I need to know about any new rackmount SSD?

News is one of the most popular subjects on STORAGEsearch.com and I saw over 20,000 storage press releases in 2000 - but every month I have to disregard thousands of press releases, which storage vendors have paid good money to their agencies to write and distribute. Here are some of the common reasons why...

Even if you're not interested in reaching our readers you will find these notes useful in improving the effectiveness of your PR efforts with other web publications. Editors vary, but we've got a job to do, just like you. Doing things right is a win win for all concerned.


1 - the news release is not newsworthy

The definition of what is newsworthy and what is not - is different for different publications and editors.

StorageSearch.com has always focused on a very narrow theme - which since 1998 has been - "leading the way to the new storage frontier".

In 2003 - 2005 - our focus on solid state storage expanded significantly - and since 2010 StorageSearch.com's focus has been exclusively about "thought leadership in the SSD market".

What does "thought leadership in the SSD market" mean? Read some of our SSD articles going back more than 10 years and you'll see that we discuss important future trends in the SSD market years before they are recognized anywhere else. We also have the industry's best track record at predicting future winners in the SSD market. That's because our readers make the market happen. We have "thought leadership" strongly represented in our readers too.


2 - you did not send me a copy of the press release.

Like you my time is limited. On some days my incoming email contains so many good news stories that there's no need for me to go out and look elsewhere. When I'm reviewing a mixture of stories on the web and in my inbox, the incoming news stories in my email get a higher priority in my points scoring system because they have saved me time. These emailed press releases also get dispensation from (2) below, because if you've emailed me the news item its doesn't matter if I can't find it on your web site on that day.


3 - the press release can't be found on your web site

I rarely / never look at news distribution sites. Most news stories are triggered by something I've seen on a vendor's web site, a new article I'm working on or an incoming email.

Evene when I get a press release by email the first thing I do is go to the company's own web site and try to verify the release there. If the press release isn't there, then most of the time I'll ignore it. There are 3 reasons for this:-

2.1 - we're a primary source of information in this industry. We do like to link directly to a storage vendor's web site, because that's what we do. We intensely dislike linking news stories to other news sites or publications because that implies we aren't doing our job properly. When we started featuring daily news in January 2000, we did link to other sites, but it's exceedingly rare for us to do so now that our own news service is well established.

2.2 - in our news pages we link directly to the full release, so that if our readers want to see more than the summary on our site, they can see the full text on the original vendor's site. We think it's a good thing for vendors to receive traffic from our site, maybe it will encourage them to think about advertising. If we sent traffic to another news site, the originator of the news item would get a misleading idea about where their visitors are coming from.

2.3 - If the news release isn't important enough to include on your own site, then frankly - why should we care about it? Unless you're an advertiser, in which case the new product will often be on our site anyway.)


4 - the press release got here too late:- is too old

You won't believe how many times I get emails from marketing people who send me copies of press releases which are anywhere from 1 week to several months old.

Sorry, that may work in the print media, but it's not much use to us. We list news items on our site in release date order. So a release that's a day old gets less visibility than a release with today's date. My policy is usually to disregard any release that's more than 2 business days old.

Another trick I've seen is where we receive an email press release with today's date, and then discover that exactly the same release was sent out maybe a week earlier on a news wire, or on the original company's web site. Believe me we do check every release. Redating old news may work on other publications, but not this one.


5 - the press release was sent via the wrong method

We can turn around a news story and run an editorial news flash banner on our site typically within about 15 minutes. That's pretty close to real-time. We can only do that if the news story comes in an electronic format (email or a web page).

So, sorry to say, the press releases which still come into this office daily on paper, by snailmail are just thrown straight into the bin. They usually arrive too late anyway, so they fail on 2 counts.



6 - the press release reads more like a contract than a news story

Many of the press releases I get are about collaborative ventures between companies. For example manufacturers may agree to cross license their respective technologies, or a hardware and a software company may agree on joint product support.

Sometimes I get the impression from reading the text that what I'm actually seeing is clauses which have been cut and paste from the contracts which the companies have signed with each other. Phrases and tenses which are essential in a legally binding contract, don't sound so interesting to readers as they do to your lawyers who are charging you by the hour. Even if the source is the contract, try to rewrite it in a way which sounds more relevant to a 3rd party.


7 - I don't think readers will be interested in your press release

Maybe I should have listed this one first. It would be an elaborate form of ritual suicide for a web publisher to start publishing stories which they knowin advance - won't be of interest to readers. Although I sometimes get it wrong - and find that a story which interests me isn't as popular as I expected - it would be nuts to publish boring content which adds nothing to the reader's knowledge or state of mind.

I've been tracking how popular every news story is that I've published since 1996. That tracks the changing interests of millions of readers and on the order of 100 million pageviews. So I use that knowledge - coupled with my forecasts of future trends and awareness of what else our readers have already seen in the past day, week, month etc to make my judgement.


Finally - you can see every day on our news page and the headlines we use on our home page and editorial banners that we do manage to publish a lot of news, despite the pitfalls I've listed above. I'd like to process more of them, and I hope you find the notes above helpful in understanding what you need to do to make this a sustainable rewarding win-win process.
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...Later:- I didn't think it would be easy to add to the above list, but 5 years later I did.

Common PR Errors I See Every Day - Part 2

Editor:- September 20, 2005 - exactly 5 years ago I wrote an article called - "Press Release Errors I see every day" - designed to help marketing communications people communicate more effectively with busy editors like me.

In recent days I've been stymied by a couple of PR related problems, which, while not new, have occurred in a cluster, and so I thought that maybe they should be added to the old list. Here they are, see what you think. Are you guilty?
  • Broken content. - Submitting an article or press release in the form of a pdf file which has been locked so that the text contents cannot be cut and paste into a web page.
  • Broken backwards communication path. - Sending an email press release which needs some clarification. But when I reply to the sender's designated email address I either get a message saying they are not accepting email, or the address is invalid (due to a typo in the email address given in the release or a departed employee's email address) or the vacation message saying that the sender will be uncontactable for the next 10 days, or just as bad - no reply at all.
In one vendor's case I had the broken content problem immediately followed by the backwards communication fault related to an article that I had agreed to publish. Over a week later, still no reply. It's a good article and may still be worth looking at in another 2 to 3 months if the vendor's PR company ever contacts me again.
  • Faulty timing. - Sending two press releases on consecutive days.

    In a recent case I ran the first one. The second one which came in the next day was more important to the vendor - but they didn't have a high enough reader rank or PR score to justify running two stories in the same week. So the second story just got dropped. PR is not like an ad. The publisher does not have to run it. And our readers come first. - As an editor I would rather run more stories about more companies - than lots of stories about a single company - unless that company is attracting an unusual degree of reader interest (something I can measure in about 20 minutes in real-time using editorial banner ads - and from which I learn the best tactical listing of news stories).
  • No subject line in email. - Those always get deleted without being looked at unless by chance the email is at the end of the block delete and I notice what it's about in the fraction of a second before zapping.
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by Zsolt Kerekes - Editor StorageSearch.com
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What Lies Beneath the Storage News?
Editor:- October 11, 2007 - You'll often see storage news on other sites which you don't see here on STORAGEsearch.com. When the news item sounds significant, you may be wondering why?

Is the editor asleep? Or is there a more Machiavellian reason for the news drop out?

For example is the editor suppressing news from some companies - because they compete with an advertiser?

Not guilty! That kind of publication wouldn't last more than a few months for 2 reasons.

1 - most new advertisers become advertisers because they've already had a lot of inquiries coming from editorial. The pressure from that direction would be to run and hype all press releases (which is the opposite to excluding them).

2 - the most important asset that a publisher has is readers. Advertisers may come and go - but without high quality readers who really care about the subject and work hard to find out what they need, and are people who make a difference to the market by what they do - a publication is just fodder for search-engine robots - and has no value whatsoever.

Sadly a common reason for a news story not appearing is that the core statements in the press release are simply not true.

Every week I get press releases from vendors making bold claims such as:-
  • first company to launch this type of product
  • fastest product (in its class)
  • lowest cost storage product (in its class)
  • biggest customer installation for this technology
  • highest market share in market segment
Unlike a robot, or software news aggregator, I actually read all the press releases which come into this publication.

I've probably read more than 100,000 press releases related to the storage market in my 16 years as editor, and I've seen thousands of web sites in this industry. But because I care a lot about the progress of this industry and because readers are the most important resource for any publisher, I always check the facts before running this type of news story.

The simplest way is for me to search our archived storage news pages. But I can also search email going back 10 years and if that doesn't give me a good confidence level - I'll search the web for previous examples of similar claims.

When I don't run a story for this reason - I always reply to the sender of the press release saying why. That often starts a dialog which pins down the root cause as being the writer didn't know about the earlier published example.

Back in 2000 I wrote an article to help news contributors understand how to interface better with editors. I called it Why I won't publish your press release? - Press Release Errors I see every day. Then 5 years later - I added some more notes to that.

One thing I never thought I'd have to say explicitly in that PR guide is that I will never run a news tory which I know in advance is untrue.

Human nature being what it is - most of us aren't so interested in news stories about the 2nd or 3rd fastest/newest products - even though that's what usually sells in the most volume. I guess the reason may be because we like to know where the boundaries are. If something shifts the boundaries - such as a 10 terabyte 3.5" hard drive - then we're more interested to read about it than the 3rd or 4th terabyte drive.

When the incorrect claim stories come in - I always try to find if there is anything else interesting in the story that I can run with - while leaving the suspect claim itself out.

As a general rule I remove adjectives like "fast" or "leading" (company) unless they are supported by figures or hard market data in the text. So if you see those words in this publication - their value has not been diluted.

A more common reason for not running a news story is that "it's not newsworthy" or it has already been mentioned here before - and not much has changed since. Or it's the latest in a long line of me-too announcements.

Another reason for not running a news story is that the idea behind it is just complete nonsense. In this category are many product comparisons, benchmarks and badly designed surveys which are as useful as measuring the speed of a Porsche 911 driving across a freshly plowed field.

I get a lot of queries from PR writers about why I didn't run something. If I really did miss it - and if it's significant enough - I'll go back and look again.

What's important is that you should be able to rely on the information you see in these pages. And that when you see a claim about some record breaking product - someone has actually done some simple checks before making the words appear on your screen
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