Perl PR: There's more than one way to do it

The Perl Foundation tried a little PR experiment over the holiday. Good idea, but there's more than one way to do it.

The Perl Foundation tried a little PR experiment over the holiday. Good idea, but there's more than one way to do it.

Dave Cross blogged about putting out a press release on Perl 5 development moving to a Git repo. Not a bad idea, but probably not the most effective way to spread the news. As one of the mottos of the Perl community is "there's more than one way to do it," I'd like to put forward some ideas on how to do PR that don't fall into the standard corporate mold of "put out a press release and pray."

I'm glad to see the Perl Foundation looking to be more visible -- overall, it seems to me that the Perl community has been kind of quiet the past few years (perhaps they're tired of questions about Perl 6...) and it wouldn't hurt at all for the community to be looking for new ways to spread the word about Perl.

But putting things out on PRWeb probably isn't going to get a lot of traction. Especially when it's not a major attention-grabber. If there's a big Perl 6 announcement -- that might be a good one to invest the $80 in. But, for the most part, the only people who care that Perl development is going to be moved to a Git repostitory are people who know what Git is in the first place -- which is not the vast majority of journalists that read PRWeb. Of course, some sites pick up press releases unaltered from services like PRWeb, so you'll get a small boost on Google News if one of them picks up the release, but not a huge amount. (I checked, and the release did get picked up by a few publications, so it may have been worth the $80, but they could have gotten the same results or better for free, excepting the time to submit.)

If not PRWeb (or other news wires) what should community projects do to get attention from the press?

  • Create a list of sites and reporters/bloggers who typically cover your project or things that look like your project.
  • When you have news, send a personal note to each of those people with a short release that's written conversationally and has highlights about why the news is important and what benefits (not features) it has for users or developers.
  • Be mindful of news cycles -- anything submitted over the weekend or major holidays is likely to be ignored. So, pretty much anything the week of Christmas is unlikely to be noticed. Even if a reporter happens to be working during the holiday, fewer people are likely to see it.
  • Understand what's news and what isn't. Minor releases (Acme Editor 4.0.1 - now with undo up to 1,024 operations, up from 1,000!) aren't likely to be worthy. Major events -- major releases, major new functionality, license changes, etc. -- merit the time and effort to reach out to the press.
  • Learn how to work with and talk to the press.
  • Be the media -- When I was reporting full-time, I was much more likely to see a blog post by someone in the Perl community than I was to see a news release on PRWeb. By blogging and writing about activities in your community (which will occasionally not only spread the news, but also get you paid) you can be proactive and ensure that the word is spread whether or not a reporter decides to cover the story.

You might be thinking that it's too time-intensive to contact, say, 30 reporters and bloggers directly. Thing is, getting in touch with the people directly means that you can establish a relationship and realize some long-term benefits you won't see out of a press release.