During our years at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh we taught an undergraduate public relations class and often invited in guest lecturers so we could avoid any real work in preparing for the class. One of the very best folks we brought in was then Newsweek education editor Dennis Williams, who later joined the faculty at Cornell University.
Williams told the students “traditional public relations tools don’t work with the national media. The usual publicity tools—like press releases—mean virtually nothing on the national level. Getting your story told is based more on the relationships you’ve developed with editors and reporters. Effective press relations means dealing in personalities, not just news facts.”
William said he received “about five pounds of mail” daily at Newsweek (in pre-email days). He found 90 percent of the news releases he received “useless,” about 8 percent “providing some story leads” and about 2 percent that “led to stories.”
He urged publicists to develop a “sharing relationship” with members of the media, and he emphasized the need for them to be as forthright with bad news as they are with the good.