Why press releases are passé (and how to adjust)

It used to be that the term “PR” could really apply to two things; public relations or press releases. In fact, just a short while ago, the two were pretty much interchangeable. But times, they are a-changing.

Nowadays I still see many tourism organizations write up a press release for an event or award, send it out to the same old media list and expect a different reaction… what is the definition of insanity again?

Bottom line: just sending a press release no longer works (and if you’ve been paying a company to send out a press release on your behalf… stop). It’s hard to adjust because many of us were trained in this way, but taking a different view of media relations will yield you so much more of the media attention you crave, and that your destination deserves.

It’s time to try something different. Take a few minutes and think about what makes your destination unique; perhaps you have an annual event that isn’t your generic “harvest festival” or “4th of July parade”? Or maybe an anchor attraction that visitors just love? Perhaps a niche museum? Whatever that “thing” is, write it down and write why it’s special. Heck, you may find that your area has more than one!

Now it’s time to do some research on the media outlets you might want to tell this story (also known as a pitch) to.

  • Make a list of 8-10 magazines/blogs that have the kind of audience you really think you could resonate with, and that you’d love to see your destination featured in in the next 6-12 months.
  • Check out their online edition (or head to the library or bookstore) to get your hands on information such as topics/features they have in each issue, as well as editor name and contact info.
  • Find and download each publication’s editorial calendar (usually housed in advertising section–you may have to email them for it). In the editorial calendar you will be able to see what the magazine is focusing on every edition, and you’ll be able to see if your destination makes sense to pitch (i.e. “Surprising Winter Getaways,” “Ski Mountains Not on Your Radar,” etc.).
  • If you don’t feel like there is a direct correlation between your destination and an ed cal topic, you can always generally pitch too! Create a story idea that really makes sense for their readers.
  • Email each publication’s editor with their individualized story idea, and follow up a week later.

If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to securing more coverage! And if you’re a member of Sparrow Travel Media, steps 2 and 3 are taken care of for you with our up-to-date media lists and editorial calendars, saving you a ton of time.

Just remember that the media doesn’t want any more press releases, they want story ideas—and you have them!