The Death Wish of the Press Release

12 Mar

[Please note: This post is a guest contribution from a dissertation student, Kate Talbot.]

Kate_5 Someone once told me that the relationship between journalists and PRs is like an alcoholic who does not know he/she is addicted. I am fond of this metaphor, probably because I am in the PR industry and despite journalists telling us constantly we are an unnecessary intermediary, it allows the PR professional a moment of satisfaction.

I also liken this metaphor to the relationship between a journalist and a press release. It is not uncommon to come across journalists who despise press releases. Come to think of it, there are a few PR practitioners who aren’t that keen either, so why does the press release dominate media relations tactics?

I have heard a couple of stories concerning stupid PR people sending over press releases or making sell in phone calls to a journalist who writes in a completely different subject area. Yes, this is a waste of everybody’s time and the good practitioners will not be making these kinds of mistakes.

Although it seems to generate some annoyance, the press release is a useful communications tool.

The fact of the matter is, the press release (if written well) is an easy way to communicate all the facts on a topic, company or news item, giving a journalist the opportunity to use the release to generate a story. Investigative journalism is a skill that cannot be lifted from a press release but when simple facts about a company or product are needed, a press release is one of the easiest, most reliable places to get them from.

Media is evolving online and sources of information are much more widely available, however this is not a reason for the press release to die a death. The internet and corporate blogs can be used to gain information from a more direct source than the PR agency behind the brand but that’s not the single use of a press release. A press release can break news to a journalist that is not available over the internet or anywhere else.

Press releases need to be more targeted and PR practitioners must take into account new information sources available to journalists to ensure consistency of messages throughout all corporate publication, whether online or in print.

I think the next few years will see change in media relations, for example the targeting of social media such as blogs and in turn the monitoring of this media, but one thing I think will remain secure is the press release. As technology develops the format of the press release may change as it has from post, to fax, to email, however the objective of the release will remain the same – an exchange of information with a journalist in the hope that they will write about it.

8 Responses to “The Death Wish of the Press Release”

  1. samantha wilcox 12/03/2007 at 11:46 am #

    Good point Richard, I can see the benefits of press releases and think they will remain a cornerstone of the PR world but the way they are delivered is changing and I’m sure press releases will find new life as podcasts or parts of wiki’s in the future…But then would they really be press releases in the traditional sense or will they require a whole new title?

  2. altyrianview.com 12/03/2007 at 5:58 pm #

    Why the Media Hates the Press Release

    I read an interesting post at PR Studies about the press release. It got me thinking about why I think media types hate press releases.
    I think the problem with the press release is three fold:
    – Everyone *thinks* they can write them
    – People have fo…

  3. Adam Lewis 13/03/2007 at 5:46 pm #

    In some form I believe that the idea of the press release will always be around. Yes the way we communicate is constantly evolving around us, and because of this the way we recieve information can be in a variety of different ways.
    But there seems to be a model that’s always stayed the same. Somehow the person giving the news has to get the news to the person recieving the news. And I feel that this model will always be called the “Press Release”.

  4. Katy Marshall 13/03/2007 at 8:40 pm #

    I feel that Kate is refering more to the format that a press release will take. The evolutionary process of the medium as aposed the purpose for which it will be used.

  5. Ren 14/03/2007 at 9:05 am #

    Press Releases – I think a google-search facility where people can submit releases and others can search a growing collection of press releases by location/industry/keywords – that’s the future.
    Thinking about PRs and Journalists, maybe it’s a bit like Ready Steady Cook – PRs bring their bags of groceries and talk about their favourite meals then the journalists mix and match it all around and figure out how they’re going to cook it…

  6. Sharon Cain 17/03/2007 at 6:59 pm #

    Fascinating concoction Ren – I wonder what the clients will make of it! Whatever format the news release takes as it evolves will be secondary to ensuring that we are giving the media a story with a robust hook or angle which is not littered with typos and inaccuracies. I run a PR company and predominantly employ former print and broadcast journalists on the premise that we speak the same language as the media. Having been in their shoes and been bombarded with rubbish writing and sales-based diatribes, we only submit stories that we are confident will hit the mark. This entails being honest with our clients and not wasting their hard earned resource on something which would not see the light of day and would further frustrate overstretched journalists. In response to Kate asking why the press release dominates media relations tactics, I think it’s because clients value the benefits that can result from well-written stories placed in their target media – whether it be securing them new business or attracting the best employees.

  7. Mhairi Clarke 19/03/2007 at 8:48 pm #

    I agree that the objective of the press release will remain the same and I think it will always be the core part of media relations whether it’s posted, faxed, e-mailed or online. I think that in certain organisations, too much emphasis is placed on reaching a press release “quota” which in turn creates a column inches obsessive culture. As Sharon says, the client expectation of media relations is to secure new business and attract new employees and the press release is just one of many ways of doing that. Now, with the expansion of social media, organisations have the power to bypass traditional media and communicate their messages directly to key audience groups, which admittedly can be a bit hit and miss with the old press release. As a former press release monkey, I welcome the various other platforms for communicating with stakeholders but accept that a perfectly polished press release with relevant information will always be the bread and butter of PR.

  8. crosby 21/03/2007 at 9:19 pm #

    Great post – I find myself rarely going through the trouble of putting together a traditional press release. Instead, I write mini-releases that are easy to paste into the body of an email. Same concept but more direct. I also try and personalize the release to the media contact, instead of sending out a standard release that, by virtue of its structure, gets recognized as something that probably got sent out to a ton of other people. As a fashion pr blogger, I also appreciate receiving pitches this way.

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