Tuesday, March 27, 2012

RIP: The Traditional Press Release

The press release is dead. Long live the press release! 

Well, okay. I suppose that may be overly dramatic, but the press release is arguably on its final breaths, at least as we've come to know it. 

The rigidly formatted document (its headline, lede, quotes and boilerplate worked to death before hopefully catching a journalist's eye) doesn't serve the purpose it once did. Sure, for General Motors, IBM, and Citigroup, companies whose news is guaranteed to move markets and receive front-page attention in the business world, the press release is the same today as it was decades ago. For most companies, though, that's no longer the case.

As pointed out in David Meerman Scott's book "The New Rules of Marketing and PR," companies have a greater opportunity than ever before to reach interested parties through Internet search. Content is king, and new and relevant company information doesn't have to be packaged via press releases and proper channels of wire distribution . What you've written might not even be appropriate for a company's website newsroom. But it could make for an interesting blog piece, or be something Facebook fans or Twitter followers find of interest. Most importantly, creating such newsworthy content will help you and your organization directly connect with people who Google the terms you're writing about.

There's still a need for press release distribution as these experts attest. But, as Steve Waddington of UK-based Speed Communications says, "The press release has become a general purpose document that an organisation publishes on its web site and issues via a wire service, not to inform the media of a news event, but typically to reach broader audiences and more often than not to satisfy an internal audience."

It should be said that no matter the form, the fundamentals of press release writing remain. The release must be clear and informative and let readers know the who what where when and why. But you can tailor your news directly to your target audience without the vetting and editing and rewriting of someone in a newsroom somewhere.No longer are there traditional gatekeepers deciding what does or doesn't get published.

Maybe it's a psychological shift: rewiring our thinking to always switch "news" for "press" in the term. News release is already widely used as the term and press release has started to sound archaic. That's not to say it won't get picked up by the press either. Even without distribution, social media can drive a story, and bring it to mainstream news channels that had overlooked it at first.

The important thing is to keep writing about the latest developments in your organization as long as someone will find it of value and interest. Then let them know every way you can.

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