Is social media now a better media relations tool than the press release?

Renee Jennings, CEO and founder of R. Media Group, and Jennifer Mirabile, Assistant VP of Young & Associates, debate whether social media is now a better media relations tool than the press release.

Is social media now a better media relations tool than the press release?


Renee Jennings

CEO and founder, R. Media Group

Former music editor and freelance journalist, now runs the Brooklyn, NY, PR firm

Entrepreneurs are popping up all across America faster than you can say the words "small business." It is commendable to see so many of these business owners, old and new, practice self sufficiency as it relates to marketing and promotion. Social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have made it easier for people to feed information to the public and create instant media frenzy, depending on the subject matter.

With these developments, the days of our trusted newsworthy announcement known as the press release are apparently long gone.

Before the hype of social networking sites and YouTube, a press release served as a direct pitch to media outlets. If the release was well written, correctly formatted, and coupled with newsworthy content, chances are it would spark the interest of an editor or reporter.

Today, we can see a shift in how reporters are locating reliable sources for news. With the change in media, which allows just about anyone to have a blog, radio program, reality TV show, or even an online publication, individuals seeking media attention rarely have to submit a press release to get noticed.

What is even more damaging to the authenticity of the press release, however, is the fact that so many "professionals" are writing releases that lack newsworthiness. Publicists are not taking responsibility for what they are putting out. Furthermore, they are failing to coach their clients on how ineffective it can be to submit a press release on something such as "getting new paint brushes." It's almost as if a press release is something as common as everyone owning a cell phone.

Our society is changing rapidly. Some cringe at the thought of social networks' influence on media, but reporters are increasingly replacing press releases with use of sites such as Twitter to pitch story ideas. At the end of the day, the relationships you build with the media are most important. So if that media is changing, it might be best for you to change with it.


Jennifer Mirabile

Assistant VP, Young & Associates

Creates and manages PR strategy for high-growth tech companies

We all know that "the press release is dead" statement is made every so often to provoke controversy among PR pros, but are the lights really out on the age-old release? Not so fast. Journalists still ask for releases because they include the in-depth facts needed to craft thoughtful articles and are still known as the formal word from a company. With tweets running rampant and blogs not tied to traditional editorial standards, releases add legitimacy to news and can stand as a company's archive of milestones.

The release isn't perfect, of course. It has a few flaws - more or less depending on its author - but I don't expect it to vanish anytime soon. Instead, the release is evolving to include videos, photos, social media, and links for SEO benefits.

Some recent commentary suggests tweets can be a stand-in for the release, based on its use among celebrities such as Kanye West and Lindsay Lohan. However, stars' use of Twitter isn't a PR strategy or a tactic corporate America should copy. On the contrary, corporate reputations are built on transparency and market relevancy, both of which require strategic and credible correspondence tactics with media.

A tweet can give a celebrity, and most companies for that matter, a valuable forum to share short updates, briefly address a crisis, or handle customer complaints, but strategic communications needs more planning, further strategy, and integration with the marketing program's goals.

Sure, Twitter is a great tool for reporters who want to track specific companies, products, and brands. On the flip side, PR teams should include the medium in outreach efforts. However, a clear and concise media pitch with a detailed release is necessary for communicating the ins and outs of news.

Today, PR pros are using more communications channels to reach reporters, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs. However, due to the credibility a release provides, it will remain a company necessity for years to come. Social media channels are bright, but not shiny enough to dim the light of the press release.

Social media is very useful for communicating with the media, but a strong press release that highlights the news, possibly using multimedia and SEO, is still the most effective tool. It is the PR pro's job to balance both.

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