Apparently the press release is dead, or dying, or something like that anyway.
If that’s the case then I’ve just spent the morning trying to resurrect the dead. And the coverage the extinct press release got me for clients last week must surely have been imaginary.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (a trusted resource I hope you’ll agree) a press release is ‘an official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter.’
Quite ambiguous, but ultimately it means news.
So how can the press release be dead? It’s like saying that news is dead.
Back to the dictionary: news is ‘newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events.’
And unfortunately, for those press release haters out there, most ‘news’ is in some way related to a person, a business, a product, an organisation or a brand – which is going to give someone, somewhere some publicity.
So, a press release is simply a way to get that news to the journalist and the reader quicker.
Yes, there are an awful lot of PROs out there who are still spamming newsdesks with terrible press releases which barely function as cohesive sentences, let alone news.
But the ones that are doing it right – creating targeted content for particular titles, with relevant case studies, statistics and local hooks, are providing newspaper journalists – whose workforces have been cut down to the bare minimal – with decent content.
Perhaps the issue isn’t with the function, but with the name.
‘Press release’ – it has so many bad connotations – poorly written copy, thousands of people cc’d into the same email, that annoying ‘have you received my press release’ phone call.
So, maybe it’s about time the press release had a brand overhaul.
Let’s give it a new name which sums up what it does when it’s done right.
– ‘Great filler for overstretched journalists?’
– ‘Starting point for an even bigger story?’
– ‘Strong local news story?’
– ‘Real news about real people?’
– ‘A well written article which will add value to your readers?’
Much of the ‘press release is dying’ talk is put down to the fact that the traditional media channels are declining and everything is becoming about social media and online news sites.
But this isn’t affecting the tangible product – those 400 words or whatever still need to be written – they’re just distributed in a different way, with key wording no longer an afterthought.
And I for one can’t foresee a time in the near future when distribution via social media and SEO platforms will be entirely exclusive of being combined with traditional media.
Advertising Age has also been involved in the debate asking in its weekly poll ‘Is the press release dead?’
I’m pleased to note that the result is a resounding ‘No’.
What do you think?