You won’t find journalists declaring the death of the press release
The press release has again been declared dead. This time by Simon Dumenco, at Advertising Age in his column RIP, the Press Release (1906-2010) — and Long Live the Tweet.
With every declaration that the press release is dead, the word “press” is the term most often missing from the conversation. Writers of all kinds, from the mainstream media to bloggers and other content creators, depend on press releases to get the basic facts of a story as well as a company’s official perspective that they can print with some degree of confidence.
Discussions around the future or relevance of press releases tend to focus on new means of disseminating information rather than thinking about how writers are putting together their stories. PR professionals should think about how they can better meet the needs of their audience (writers) as well as their audiences’ audience (the readers). While we like to show our prowess in developing video content and reaching a wider audience with tweets, they won’t necessarily help a journalist communicate the basic facts of a story with maximum efficiency.
Most journalists are overworked and underpaid. If they are trying to fill space and add information to a story, they won’t necessarily have the time or inclination to watch a video stream or follow a company they are writing about, if that company has a twitter feed.
Dumenco says: “Of course, press releases will probably continue to stumble along, zombie-like, for years to come, because too many PR folks are still heavily invested in grinding them out.”
I don’t think any forward-looking PRs are interested in keeping the press release alive. They are interested in reaching their target audience with the story that they are representing. An integrated approach that includes traditional press releases as well as variety of content across distribution platforms will be what best delivers a story to a market looking for a variety of things from a news source.
“Engagement with journalists and consumers has evolved considerably over the past five years, to shorter formats. Often, we find that our most effective pitches are our most succinct. And interactions have naturally become more concise as many brands are in constant, direct contact with consumer audiences and media via online channels.”
It is important to be clear about what you are presenting and to help the writer write his story. If a press release is written with clarity and purpose, it will help a writer to meet his goals and give a brand the visibility it wants.
“Legend has it that early PR man Ivy Ledbetter Lee issued the very first press release in 1906 on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad, after a derailed train plunged into a creek in Atlantic City, resulting in 53 passenger deaths; The New York Times printed it verbatim.”
Dumenco really points out the power of the press release and I don’t see why this wouldn’t happen today. It does. Rather than asking what can or will replace the press release, we should look at how we can best make use of the distribution channels available to us while meeting the needs of the media and clients.