The solution? Having a menu of options that are alternatives--and likely better ones--than that press release.
I first started the list "instead of a press release" when I directed communications for the American Chemical Society, and our press officers complained that every program wanted releases, releases, releases--but then, that's all they knew to ask for. Instead of becoming a press release vending machine, we developed a sheet of options, and every communicator had it at the ready to start a conversation about alternatives. Many press releases died a-borning in this way, if the truth be known.
But here's the trick, communicators: My team didn't feel they had the backup to say "no" to our internal clients asking for releases, which is what prompted the discussion--and they didn't feel as if they had the ready answers. Brainstorming our options as a team helped everyone feel empowered and ready to suggest alternatives, two keys to making this alternative approach work.
Here's my starter list of options, all of which can be used to prompt a discussion about the intended audience and whether, in fact, a release is the right tool for the job:
- op-ed article
- blog post
event for interested parties
- email or letter to members or constituents
- speech, informal talk or demonstration before the target audience
- advertisement or public service announcement
- quote or soundbite, offered in relation to breaking news
- briefing online, on the phone, or in person
- social discussion, a Google+ Hangout, office hours on a Facebook page, a Twitter chat
- white paper or briefing for policymakers
- a list of useful expert sources on the topic, posted on your website
- panel discussion at an appropriate conference
- media advisory or photo opportunity notice
- note to editors to clarify a point
- technical article with a cover note, sent to reporters with interest
- nothing -- no action needed after discussion