Evolution of press release could drive differentiation

One of the many ongoing industry debates relates to the evolution of the press release, and that discussion continues in the blogosphere.

One of the many ongoing industry debates relates to the evolution of the press release, and that discussion continues in the blogosphere.

Journalists have always had a love-hate relationship with the press release, stemming from much of the language of the medium, which can be overly effusive and long-winded, calling to mind the famous Monty Python phrase, "Oh, get on with it." This is nothing new.

Some envision a release-free world in which reporters go to companies' blogs for information, a clueless treatise that fails to address exclusivity, distribution, standardization, and ease of discovery. But the press release should change with the times, and change is under way.

Shift Communications principal Todd Defren last week released a prototype of press release 2.0: slick, link-, graphic-, and feed-heavy with a bulleted, just-the-facts style. Edelman CEO Richard Edelman announced at the Syndicate Conference two weeks ago that the agency was restructuring its press release in June. It's about time.

Shift's version exploits the rapid changes in the online market, where traditional outlets are launching podcasts, aligning with aggregators like Topix.net, and depending on blog buzz to drive news, while corporations are using RSS feeds and newswires. More information in truncated bits will surely help reporters better parse the reason behind the release. Easier news digestion should inherently lead to more success.

More important, the vanilla press release will be replaced with variations that help firms differentiate themselves. Tech firms can send out links to Digg. Consumer companies can demonstrate the audience for a story by showing the comments thread on Gawker. That's an announcement any communicator can understand. One just hopes the measurement-focused industry will self-monitor the success of new-fangled press releases. That's one self-praising release PRWeek could pardon.

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