Trevor Jonas, VP, Access Digital
Over 13 years' experience in PR and digital comms, where he develops strategies for clients spanning various industry sectors
PR is about storytelling. Yet one of the most relied upon vehicles for distributing information - the traditional press release - is the antithesis of what it takes to tell a compelling story. With AP style and a mix of industry jargon, the press release most often resembles anything but a story anyone would want to hear - least of all a journalist.
A representative from a prominent wire service recently cold called me to sell his company's offering. One of the first things he said was "distribution is a commodity at this point." After agreeing wholeheartedly, my response was "so why should a brand repeatedly pay for it then?" There isn't a compelling answer to that question.
Companies can cut out the middle man and invest in building distribution on their own. Self-publishing platforms allow brands of all sizes to share news, information, and updates directly with audiences. This can happen cheaply, quickly, and without a large amount of technical knowledge.
A blog allows brands to tell both visual and text-based stories that readers actually want to interact with. Why? Blog posts can be more personal.
Rightly or wrongly, producing content for a blog often frees communications professionals from the shackles of a traditional press release: boilerplates, industry jargon, canned executive quotes, and more. Instead, writing tends to be more active, engaging, and along the lines of how people actually speak to other people in real life.
When you couple that with the ability to drive more traffic to company-owned Web properties and improving the SEO of said sites, the benefits start to outweigh the alternatives.
Building a wide-reaching distribution network can't be done overnight, but it can be done. With patience and hard work, a corporate blog can drive online discussions, facilitate the dissemination of company news and executive points of view, and even play a central role during times of crisis.
Throughout my career, I've seen this happen. So yes, the traditional press release is dead - or at the very least, it should be dead and buried by now.No
Tiffany Guarnaccia, Senior comms director, The Huffington Post
Experienced PR professional with a background in traditional and emerging comms
The press release is not dead - but it has taken on a new role for PR professionals.
As opposed to being one of the sole weapons in a PR person's pitch arsenal, it's now just one of the many tools we can use to secure and subsequently shape stories. A press release has a place alongside targeted tweets, smart multimedia pitches, and that ringing thing Alexander Graham Bell invented. Here are four ways to still use press releases effectively:
As a reference tool. A press release can help you to organize and prioritize information about the product or service that you are formally announcing and add an extra layer of credibility to your news, especially for startups.
It doesn't matter if you are talking to a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist or a blogger, you need to give them all the facts they need to cover your story.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Press releases can be used to gain a foothold on search engines. If you are releasing evergreen content or data-driven news like research study results, a smart way to ensure your news gets eyeballs over time is to distribute a highly optimized release.
If you don't have the in-house resources to help optimize your release, any wire service should be able to offer advice on keywords and general SEO tips.
As a resource page. I have worked with providers where in a time crunch for a big launch, my press release was turned into a dedicated media resource page with factsheet links, images, multimedia, and a Twitter feed.
As a social media driver. With social media and media relations becoming increasingly intertwined, it's a smart move to incorporate social media calls to action in your release.
It's worth noting that I'm approaching this from the perspective of traditional media relations. There are disciplines in which press releases are imperative, including investor relations, when releases must be distributed to adhere to laws around disclosure.
Press releases are still relevant. They provide much more information than a tweet with more convenience than a phone call, but only when used correctly. The last thing any reporter wants is an off-target or sloppy press release.