Is press release analysis worthwhile?

There’s a new pseudoscience in town. Media monitoring companies are dissecting press releases to understand what makes journalists tick. Australian-owned Propel has analysed more than 3,000 ‘funding-related’ pitches from the first half of the year and found that just six per cent get any coverage.

Let’s put that in context: 180 were written up. In other words, 2,820 were not. Yet Propel claims that ‘journalists love funding news’ because, on average, just 3.3 per cent of press releases get covered. Hmm, I’d say ‘love’ was rather a strong word here.

From these 180 releases, Propel has deduced that emails with subject lines of between six and nine words had a response rate of 6.9 per cent. But woe betides any PR who stretched to ten to 15 words; their success rate was just 4.24 per cent! (Editor’s note: we’re using the term ‘success’ extremely loosely.)

Propel solemnly concludes that ‘a longer subject line can make or break a pitching campaign’. And if you really want to be successful, keep the release to between 50 and 149 words because these had the ‘highest response rate at 15 per cent’. Alas, too many PRs ignore this advice: it seems 44 per cent of funding pitches are between 500 to 999 words long. The ‘harsh reality’ is these pitches got ‘an average journalist response rate of 2.26 per cent’.

Oh, stop it! Next, you’ll be creating quadratic equations for the perfect press release. It’s all hooey.

Do you honestly think that if, say, Tesla announced it was raising funds in Sweden, hacks would ignore the release because it had 12 words in the subject line rather than nine? Of course not. You’re seeing patterns where they don’t really exist, although admittedly long releases are a turn off…whether about funding pitches or not.

In general, releases get ignored because they’re sent to the wrong journalist. Or because they’re dull: a widget maker in Bury raising private equity funds is hardly front page, or even page 44, news. Or because there’s no more space. And sometimes they miss out because there’s simply no appetite that day for that sort of pitch. Other stories seem far more exciting. It’s not rocket science. It’s common sense.

Before any PR sends out a press release, they should answer one simple question. If this wasn’t your client, would you be interested in this story?