Opinion: The Case Against Small Biz Press Releases

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Some things are unassailable facts. Oxygen is good. The sky is blue. Kittens are adorable. But this morning, a story crossed my computer screen that gave me pause: McDonald's media relations chief explains why she hates press releases.

The story is a year old, but you can see where the company was headed, because months later the company had a radio ad and social media campaign that angered customers and was hijacked by others in unintended ways.

So when Danya Proud, McDonald's director of U.S. media relations, says she doesn't like press releases, it's understandable she'd rather get creative instead. Plenty of big-name companies don't use press releases, like, oh, Nike for one. But if you're a fledgling or burgeoning startup, don't you have to get the word out somehow?

Of course you do, but the problem is that, largely, and I know from experience, most press releases headed towards a writer's inbox are useless. They have too little information. They're sent to the wrong person. They were obviously sent by a robot. They're sent too late.

To combat some of this, you could read Guy Wicke's recent piece on this very topic: how to find the hook for your press release. But really, the issue still is to ask yourself why you're sending a press release. If it's just to get media attention, there are better ways. There's social media and places online you can use, like PRWeb, to distribute your releases online and let anyone who's interested come to it.

Basically, what I'd say if you're thinking of sending out a press release: Ask yourself why before you hit "send." If you just blindly want coverage from anyone who's willing, maybe you need to re-assess your whole strategy: Is getting written up on some grandma's blog really going to give you the juice you need? I'm sure she's a lovely woman, but how is that going to further your message?

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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