Is the Press Release Dead or Just Misunderstood?

Reading yet another blog post on the death of the press release recently got me thinking – is the press release really redundant? The idea that it’s no longer relevant in the digital age is a valid point. Many journalists groan at the thought of them, mainly because of the hundreds they receive every day. However, while the idea of a press release might seem old fashioned in today’s quick fire PR landscape, it’s too soon to write it off completely – here’s why.

The purpose of the press release isn’t just about getting editorial. This may seem daft as of course the primary aim of a press release is to provide the media and bloggers with your company or organisation’s latest ‘news’ in the hope that they will write about it. But any PR worth their salt knows that one of the most effective ways of getting editorial is to create individual tailored pitches. For example, when contacting national media about a new community hydro scheme, my initial contact was all individual pitches to journalists which was enough to secure the desired coverage.

So why use a press release at all? Because a press release encapsulates the core elements of what you are wanting to communicate and provides a valuable base point from which all other communications can springboard from. It should have an eye-catching headline, a pithy summary of your story, good quotes from relevant spokespeople, useful references and signposts to resources in the notes to editors and include the key messages that have been agreed with all relevant parties. This is particularly useful for larger corporates or where there are several parties working together.

If it sounds a bit pedestrian, that’s just because we’re now used to working with live online channels and social media platforms where quick-fire engagement is king. But great PR needs a thoughtful approach and the best press releases work because they force us to be succinct and to the point. And not many journalists will complain about that.

My tips for press release perfection:

Keep it snappy: We all know what I’m talking about. Poorly written, zillions of pages long, no sign of an actual story. These sorts of press releases have always been a menace and just clog up time and inboxes. One page of A4 should be all you need, two at the absolute most.

Keep it relevant: Do your homework and make sure your media list includes only those who might genuinely be interested in your story. If not, you’re sending spam.

Keep it on target: Sometimes of course it’s just not possible to make individual approaches to everyone and many do still prefer to receive a press release in the first instance. Just don’t rely on blanket distribution to get the results you want. Take the time to pitch your story to the most important of your target media. The results will be worth it.

Do you agree? Post your view in the comments.