I’m old. So I can be cranky about things. One of those things is digital companies offering to do your PR for free or half the cost. Without a committed PR staff, a digital company trying to do PR is a lot like, well, me trying to optimize your website. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but they won’t be strategic, comprehensive or—most importantly—effective.

Landing that coveted story is so much more than issuing a press release. It’s about understanding the environment into which you are inserting your news, who covers your type of news, what they last wrote that may be relevant—and that’s before you begin writing.

Writing requires not only the ability to communicate. It’s also about knowing how to tie your story to what’s trending and cultivating a compelling angle that cries out, “Must Read! Important!”

Where digital is a science, PR is both a science and an art. You need to know the mechanics of sound business writing, press release construction and distributional channels. But you also need to understand the principles, the art, of persuasion.

Unfortunately, persuasion prowess isn’t learned. Sure it’s refined, honed, perfected. But it’s born out of natural ability and a passion for storytelling.  Not everyone is a writer in the same way that not everyone can code HTML. And even if you’ve somehow, over the years, been able to develop your writing skills, successful story placement still requires more. It requires being a media sleuth, finding the right reporter or editor to pitch through research and understanding of each reporter’s beat, bent and propensity for liking/needing your information.

So, the next time your digital agency says they’ll write that press release for you, ask to see the results of press releases they’ve distributed in the past.  Did they generate stories? The right kind of stories? The ones you are proud to show mom?  If not, ask your PR agency.

This blog is dedicated to Mark Gunn who is passionate about traditional marketing practices.