We get asked on Cigar Coop and Stogie Geeks on what it’s like to cover the cigar industry.  Over the past couple of months, I have put a couple of more cigar media-centric editorials.   This month I explore a mechanism that we in the media depend on very heavily – press releases. While press releases may seem to be a solution to many, the process is not without its shortcomings. This month I take a look at the timing of a press release between the cigar media and the cigar retailers.

What is a Press Release?

From wikipedia, here is the definition of a press release

A press release is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy

In the cigar industry, many brands have embraced the press release. Documenting a good press release is not easy work, and it does require time and resources to do it right. The key words are “directed at the media”. I feel a good press release needs to have the media in mind.

The communication of new product information is often communicated in a press release. By covering cigar news, the press release provides a lot of the necessary information needed for us to do so.

How do we use Press Releases?

While many media outlets / blogs will cut and paste press releases into their published content, we at Cigar Coop and Stogie Geeks pretty much stopped doing this almost two years ago. Instead we take that content and build our own original content. This allows us to have our own worded story.  It also allows us to maintain a consistent format and style in our content.

We always strive to preserve the integrity of the press release.  By using this approach, we can minimize much of the marketing and tell the story more from a journalistic view point.

What doesn’t constitute a Press Release?

Another way cigar companies have communicated product information is through sales and marketing communications directly to retailers and consumers. This really isn’t a press release because it is not “directed at the media”.

I believe a press release should not only the content of the announcement, but also list media contacts, a release date for the information to be published, and background on the companies.  It shouldn’t provide proprietary or confidential information.

The Chicken or Egg?

Whether it falls under what I consider a formal press release or not, an interesting battle quietly gone on in the cigar industry when it comes to the official release of information – namely who should be informed first, the media or the retailer? It is important to understand here, we are only talking about those companies that do a formal press release (or what they consider a press release).  We understand some companies do have a different marketing model and do not invest resources in press releases.

I’ve been amazed at how many times an official communication goes out to a retailer and the media is not copied on it.  Usually this lets a retailer know about the product and even tells them when they can order it.   However, I find it puzzling that in some cases a communication to the cigar media does not go out until weeks later.  In some cases I’ve seen the product arrive at the retailer before its been communicated to the cigar media!  When you give information to the retailer, while in this author’s opinion, you have released the information.

In my opinion, if information has been released to retailers, unless it was done confidentially and/or with non disclosure, the media does have a right to seek out and publish this information.The media has a responsibility to understand that there might be sensitive information (like dealer costs) and that should not be disclosed.  In cases where the media outlet is owned by or joined at the hip with a retailer, it’s going to give them an advantage over the competition, but that’s the cards that are death.

On the other hand, we’ve seen many retailers upset that a cigar is communicated to the media first before it is communicated to them. They don’t like the fact they are reading about it instead of getting the information first from the company they are doing business with. This is a fair argument to some extent.

The ideal solution is pretty simple – release the information simultaneously, and formulate the press release and send to both parties simultaneously.  Ultimately the media will have more power at communicating this information and in the end it will help the retailer and brand owner as more consumers will be aware of the product at hand.

There are times where I get a company needs to tell a retailer first about early information.  This can always been done under a non-disclosure until the actual press release is issued.

What about when press releases are not done?  And how do exclusive stories fit in?  We will explore these in an upcoming Editor’s Corner installment later this year.