What’s up with press releases?
So, I’ve recently been asked what seems to be a recurring question in my professional career: “Austin, are press releases dead?”
The answer isn’t as clear cut as some might think.
PR professionals, particularly from the B2B side of PR, have written about this topic extensively, but there is no consensus if the press release/media release/media alert is truly dead. In my opinion, many authors and professionals who try to tackle this subject often forget the true function of a press release in modern day public relations and end up just dismissing press releases as an archaic tool because they don’t know how to use it.
Now, as a Millennial who is fairly fresh to the public relations field, I should argue that the press release is dead, but I think the better way to approach this topic is to say that it has just changed forms and is used much differently in 2017 than it was, say, 20 years ago.
Let’s dive into some pros and cons of press releases to really frame this question:
- Place of reference. Press releases are a GREAT way to summarize key information in an organized fashion. Whether you are pinning a press release to the top of your Twitter page in an emergency or just casually blasting it out on your social media, it’s a great way to just present information in a timely matter. Although, many would argue that creative and innovative communications programs would go far beyond simply using a press release.
- Way to generate small amount of earned media. I think this is one of the most important functions of the modern-day press release. However, one cannot simply rely on a press release to generate earned media coverage. Make sure you use your press release as a tool for your media pitching rather than as the way to land your story.
- Messaging. If messaging is critically important to your job, then why wouldn’t you use a press release? It can enable you to better keep control of your organizations key messages, and is very useful for spokespeople. It also may still be useful as a follow up. Press releases are a good reason to email a reporter and keep your message top of mind.
- Easily managed through monitoring and measurement. Think about it. If you include live links in your press release, you can track website traffic. If you are looking to generate earned media from your press release, make sure you are utilizing your media monitoring service to capture pickup of your press release. And no, I’m not talking about your press release being buried on Finance.Yahoo.com or other press release aggregators. I’m talking about TRUE earned media pickup that your press release generated. Measuring media coverage is easy!
- Too often, press releases are used in a silo. Too many times we see a brand put out numerous press releases to promote their product and use that tactic as the centerpiece of their campaign. Yikes. That’s wrong for a whole host of reasons.
- Audience targeting. This is a given! Distribution services have cut down on this problem for our industry, but we cannot rely on them to get our story in front of reporters. Much of the time, press releases that are sent out to reporters via distribution services are largely ignored. Why? Because you sent them a boring press release that most likely has nothing to do with their beat. Focus the target of your release. Don’t just send it into the unknown.
- Used as an earned media function and counting press releases distribution as actual media pickup. This is dangerous and broadcast news websites that archive press releases on their webpage are largely to blame. It’s important to realize that absolutely zero news stations in the United States will run press releases directly on their website for their readers to digest. It just doesn’t happen.
In an ever-evolving public relations space, it’s important to have the old tools, new rules mindset (which is a twist on our former Universal Information Services tagline). The old tools of our industry absolutely do have new rules and new functions. It’s just about finding the right way to utilize them in your overall marketing and public relations strategy.
How does your organization use press releases? More importantly, what goals does your team/company set out to achieve when distributing a press release? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to tweet me at @AustinOmaha or simply comment below!
Austin Gaule, PR Measurement Director at Universal Information Services