Press Releases Aren't Dead! But We Should Bury Some Myths

Just because we don't type on a typewriter, doesn't mean typing is dead. Photo from geoftheref on Flickr

Just because we don’t type on a typewriter, doesn’t mean typing is dead. Photo from geoftheref on Flickr

I’m tired of hearing that the press release is dead. Sure, it was a great meme in 2006 and it spawned great discussions about a social media release or the press release of the future, but those discussions are over and here’s the fact: press releases aren’t going anywhere. In reality, a release is just a way to distribute content. It’s part of the process, but not your ONLY process.

The problem lies not in how press releases are written or what they do, but in our perception of what they can accomplish.

When we talk with clients about their news we discuss “news flow” not “releases,” because news and information can take different forms. That doesn’t mean we reject all releases. They have a place, but we need to understand that place and how they help a broader influencer relations program.

Here are 5 myths about the lowly press release:

  1. Reporters clamor to read your latest release: Most people think “oh, I’ll just put a press release on “the wire” and reporters will beat a path to my door.” That’s just flat out wrong. Most reporters never look at “the wire” and few will read a release that’s simply sent to them. That doesn’t mean it’s worthless. During our pitch process many reporters still ask for the release as a starting point for their story. They then add in some interviews, research on competitors and bring up past stories. You know, all the really hard work. So the release plays a role, no matter how small.
  2. Outreach begins with the release: In reality a release is the last part of a news process that begins weeks or months prior with messaging and planning. By the time the release hits the wire your PR team should already have spoken with the key journalists telling them what’s coming. Not all journalists are going to be interested for a variety of reasons (some don’t want news that will be shared widely, others don’t like to sit on information) but at the very least use the news to start a conversation.
  3. All our news is super important: Not all information is equal. That personnel announcement may mean a lot to the mom of the VP you just hired, but unless you just stole a huge, important player from Google, TechCrunch probably isn’t going to care. The question you have is whether to spend the money to put the release out on the wire service or just post it on your site.
  4. The “release” is the only way to get “news” to the public: Another strategy is to only put out important news as a release but put the rest on your corporate blog. Have a small feature coming out? Put the product manager to work on the blog post. Have a long list of minor features in an otherwise major release.
  5. A release is only good for getting: Why put out a release on “the wire” if it’s not going to be read by the top reporters? One reason: SEO. For many of our clients release distribution is more about SEO and Google Alert pickup than it is about gaining news coverage.

The biggest tip is to find yourself a good writer and let them have at it. While the release itself may not get all the big news coverage you want, some of the language could come up in stories. If it’s vague or somewhat confusing, then reporters have a tough time getting your story right.

Also, releases tend to be archived on your own site so they reflect on you.

Chuck Tanowitz

About Chuck Tanowitz

Chuck’s clients rely on his expertise to help set strategy that combines content, social and media to reach customers, partners, investors and prospects. His clients include technology and manufacturing companies of all sizes and directions, from major manufacturing companies like Heidelberg, the printing giant, to consumer-facing startups like CoupFlip. Along the way he has worked with cloud computing, IT security, document management, content management, open source, energy and even food products.

Learn more about Chuck

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