The press release is certainly not dead as some PR people may have you believe. Yes, it’s been loaded up with jargon. Weighed down with buzzwords. Scrubbed clean of any meaningful executive quotes. But, in spite of it all, the press release can provide more value and is read by more people than ever before.
You may have heard about this ongoing debate in the PR community. It centers on the usefulness of the press release in its current state and whether a new tool is needed to better harness social and other emerging media. Some PR professionals believe the Social Media Press Release (SMPR) is the logical update to the existing press release. A SMPR does away with the need to write clearly and concisely in a news article format. It deconstructs and separates press release copy into its core components plus adds sections for rss feeds, podcasts, photos, graphics, videos, and other media and linking tools. Some people even go farther and argue that changing the format of the press release is not enough. They believe the entire concept should be thrown out, and some even talk about overturning the existing media paradigm. Heady stuff indeed!
In all the theoretical debate about the future of the press release it’s sometimes overlooked that PR professionals’ first priority must be delivering results for their clients. Today, the reality of b2b and b2g PR is that clients aren't that interested in being on the bleeding edge of innovation. They want PR counsel, strategy and execution that connect clearly to their business objectives. They care about using the most effective PR methods and the press release is still the most efficient, far reaching, and versatile platform to deliver messages to both the media and the public at large.
Today, more people are using press releases to find the information they need to do their jobs -- and not just journalists. According to a report last year by research firm OutSell, press releases have surpassed trade journals as the leading source of information for knowledge workers. In the same way journalists have, these workers rely on the press release for fast access to updates on companies, organizations, and products. The press release is particularly important to investor relations where messages and news flow are subject to a higher level of scrutiny and governed by strict regulations. These full disclosure regulations regulate how public information put out by public companies must be distributed and the reach of the traditional press release distribution companies make them the logical choice to ensure compliance.
Press releases have other important advantages for clients as well. Because they are presented as a coherent news story, they can help tell the evolving story of a company’s business momentum in a way that the piecemeal SMPR template can’t. This is especially true when releases are posted on a corporate website news room or used as printed collateral where they are ideal for supporting sales, marketing, and employee recruiting. The cut-and-paste ethos of the SMPR simply doesn’t lend itself to this type of role.
Of course, PR agencies, as do all businesses, need to stay current on the latest technology trends and can work to eliminate many of the most common complaints about press releases. There is certainly a place for blog and social media strategy in an integrated public relations campaign. RSS feeds and tools such as Digg and Del.icio.us make sense and increase the effective reach of a message. Increasingly, these features as well as links to video and podcasts are being integrated into the press release with great results. Press releases can also be greatly strengthened by understanding your audience and their information needs. No matter who is reading them, it’s wise to provide relevant industry context while eliminating technical jargon and empty marketing slogans.
But the bottom line is that the press release is alive and well and will be for a long time to come. It’s an extremely efficient, multipurpose tool that can support the business objectives of clients in many different ways. Is that as sexy or as trendy as talking about toppling the existing media paradigm? Definitely not, but that doesn't make it any less true.
This article was written by Chris Parente, managing director at Strategic Communications Group, a nationally recognized, award-winning public relations and business development firm based in Silver Spring, MD and Tysons Corner, VA.
This piece originally appeared in the All About Public Relations Web site.