Publicists Must Anticipate, Address Conflict

I just read an engaging piece (“The Redundant Journalist Guide to PR: Things To Be Considered Before Jumping Careers”) by journalist-turned-publicist Craig McGill.

In a humorous, been there-done that address to journalists considering a move to PR, McGill makes plenty of on-target points. As someone who has made the transition, however, I have to differ with at least one of his five key messages:

“You write press releases, not the story.”

In that section, McGill writes, “If you do get a topic or issue that you can sink your teeth into, remember you aren’t looking to give all sides. You aren’t writing the row (Matt’s note: “row'” is Brit-speak for “conflict”), just your client’s side of it.”

In my experience, writing a release that is limited in scope (confined to the client’s perspective, for example) simply limits its potential to spark interest from credible media.

With the media more short-staffed than ever, it’s vital for publicists to offer written content that not only anticipates the conflict inherent in a story, but offers rock-solid facts (statistics, maybe even contrary viewpoints) that make it all the more tempting for the media to say “yes” to coverage.

Here’s one example from a news release I recently developed for Scheck & Siress.

Rather than simply tell the story about what the company is doing to help care for children who have plagiocephaly (flat-head syndrome), I expanded the release to include fuller context and conflict–in this case, with the successful “Back to Sleep” campaign that has drastically reduced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

So far, five media outlets have expressed interest in the story, including two that have published it.