Ditch the News Release. Write a Brief Pitch.

Back in the old days, say in 2004, when a PR person had the assignment of getting the news out to the media about a client’s win in litigation or the completion of a corporate deal, there was one way, and only one way, to do that: write a press release.

From there the release would eventually appear on the law firm’s website, of course, and be sent out via email to the media as soon as possible, but the text would read pretty much not just as it if was 2004, but as if it were 1954 and it had been banged out on a Royal typewriter. It would include a headline, a city dateline, and the contact information for a press spokesperson. Most likely, it would be eight to 10 paragraphs long depending on the details of the news and how many people had to be quoted.

And, as an “official” statement by the law firm, the release would need the approval of lawyers on the litigation or deal team, up and down the ladder, and would take hours, if not days. Lawyers would probably chime in with comments about the wording of the release, but not the substance.

Not only is that way anachronistic, in 2015 it is not necessary.

Just as the Internet sped up the news cycle a decade ago, social media has made it, effectively, real time. Which means time is of the essence when it comes to getting the news to the media, and the contemporary journalist often is may not want to wait for a full press release, especially if that is going to be delayed by the approval process. The key is to get the news out, and it can be a waste of time to produce a full release, when a brief summary would achieve the same goal.

An effective pitch should be limited to three or four sentences that hit the high points. It can include links to supporting documents, such as court filings or your client’s news release. So when a deal closes or a case comes down from a court you can get the news out in a matter of minutes. You can tweet the pitch and at the same time send it via a quick, informal email to selected reporters. That gets the news into their hands and saves the time of the lengthy approval process.                                                                                                                              

If a release is warranted for the website, by all means write one that can remain there. But this does not need to happen right away, and if the pitch is done right, you can link to media coverage. It’s more powerful and a better practice to gain media coverage from a brief pitch than through an old fashioned news release.