Does the press release need rebranding?

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?


12 thoughts on “Does the press release need rebranding?

  1. John Edden says:

    Certainly press releases make a journalist’s job a lot easier – without them, many newspapers would remain blank.
    Perhaps it is time for a re-branding though. PR distribution via social media is something that already exists so we may not even have the press release as we know it for much longer.

    • brookenolan says:

      I think that’s true John – many newspapers would have a lot of blank space if it wasn’t for the press release – especially on a slow news day. Although social media distribution is becoming more popular, I think that the industry will hold onto the press release for as long as possible. I know many of our clients still like tangible printed coverage, and until the clients are entirely happy with just online coverage there is still a place for the traditional press release. I hope so anyhow!

  2. Ann Wright says:

    I agree with you – and have been musing on other descriptions for press releases myself. I was working with a client last week, and every newsroom they contacted wanted them to send a press release before they decided whether to run the story. Tangible evidence I’d say! Have a look at my blog and see what you think!

    • brookenolan says:

      Hi Annie, thanks for the comment. I like what you’ve said in your post about no one needing to follow you to receive a press release. It’s a good point and not one I had considered before. Like you say, journalists still want something tangible for them to consider before placing a story and I’m not sure that social media does this in the same way. Brooke

  3. Matt Williams says:

    Great write-up and comments – can’t disagree with any of the observations. One thing I think also needs to be mentioned is that with an ability to distribute directly via the various online avenues, those having a small target audience have a means to “get their news out”. I’ve worked with several clients in niche industries and have found online press release distrubution to be VERY worthwhile (e.g., there’s only so many folks interested in “industrial grinders”, much less anyone interested in writing about the latest model). Once again – great write-up!

    • brookenolan says:

      Hi Matt – thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. We work with a few fairly niche clients and sectors, and online is certainly something that we are exploring in more depth for them. Like you say – it allows you to reach their target audience quicker and more directly. We’re finding too that clients are valuing online PR such as guest blogging etc a lot more. Thanks again for your comments!

  4. Larry Schaffel says:

    Since we are now dealing with a greater variety of media than the press I think if we simply rename the press release a news release it will be more accurate and more pleasing to those other media that aren’t the press.

    • brookenolan says:

      Hi Larry – a few people have said that on Twitter too. ‘News release’ definitely works better than ‘Press release’. There is just something about the word ‘release’ which seems to sounds ‘spammy’. But that might just be me!

      • Tressa Robbins says:

        Good post, Brooke. You responded to Larry that ‘release’ sounds ‘spammy.’ It seems that’s the case for a lot of journos and PROs – thanks to those that misuse the tool. In a perfect world, we could outlaw the “spray and pray” method of distribution!
        PS – I do think “news release” is a better descriptor these days than “press release.” 🙂

      • brookenolan says:

        ‘News release’ definitely appears to be winning at the moment! I’m not sure what makes the word ‘release’ sound so bad, but I think you’re right – it’s just the connotations it holds about mass distribution. For a lot of clients at the moment we’re taking a feature based approach. Drafting a short synopsis of a tailored feature for a particular publication and discussing it with the relevant journo. It’s a great way to work – you get brilliant in-depth coverage and the journalists gets a bespoke article suitable for their readers. Thanks for the comment Tressa!

  5. Krista says:

    Hi Brooke–I’ve been meaning to comment on your post, as it’s a great assessment of the quandry many PRs are in. With so many new ways to reach the media, it’s easy to write off the traditional press/news release. The challenge is to determine what works best for the goals you or your client have in mind. It may warrant a press release or another route to convey the information. Either way, I don’t see the press release as going away any time soon; rather, it may simply evolve.

    • brookenolan says:

      Hi Krista – I completly agree. It’s very easy to say ‘the perss release is dead’ or any other sweeping statement. But we all need to think carefully about each client – what are their needs? I think you’re right – it will be around for a while yet!

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