Nov 13, 2013

Ditch the Press Release? Not So Fast.

who readsIs it time to ditch the press release? That’s the question posted in a blog post titled, “Five Ways to Ditch the Press Release and Actually Reach Your Audience,” published earlier this week on Social Media Explorer.

Unsurprisingly, the short answer in my mind is “No.”   Of course, you’d expect me to say that – after all, I’m a newswire veteran, and am in the marketing department here at PR Newswire, the industry’s largest newswire service.   But before you dismiss me as being entirely self-interested, consider these facts:

  • Press releases on garner millions of reads each month, and more than 60% of those find the content directly via search engines;
  • Journalists registered for PR Newswire for Journalists tally more than one million news release reads each month
  • Press releases are shared multiple times a minute on social networks.
  • More than 10,000 web sites worldwide repost news releases issued by PR Newswire.

Is this a tactic worth ditching?  No.

In truth, I agree in principle with just about everything author Maggie Patterson suggests – regular readers will know that tactics such as surfacing and sharing specific key messages,  utilizing a variety of multimedia elements to illustrate (and enliven) a story and making copious use of supporting blog posts are all tactics  we denizens of PR Newswire advocate.

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What’s the goal of the press release?  Media coverage? Or …?  

A problem does crop up, however, with the post’s assertion, “The goal of a press releases is to secure media coverage.”   In reality, organizations today send press releases for myriad reasons, in addition to securing media coverage, including: 

  • Increasing traffic to a web site or landing page;
  • Promoting direct audience actions, such as event registration, downloads of an app or white paper and product purchases ;
  • Seed the social web with key messaging ;
  • Positioning the organization or one of its experts as a thought leader or industry source; and
  • Distributing or driving attention to marketing content, such as infographics, blog posts and videos.

My colleague Sandra Azzollini, who oversees PR Newswire’s web site as our vice president of online communities, reminds us of the crucial connection between the press release, and measurable results for the organization issuing the news.

“What is the purpose of a press release?  It’s not to get people to read the press release,” she notes. “It’s ultimately to sell a product, stock or image.  A press release is a vehicle to complete that transaction, whatever your campaign goal is.”

Press releases, once an exclusive means of communicating with professional media, are also the domain of the public who seek out, trust and share news content.    And therein is an imperative for communicators:  the content we produce – including news releases – needs to be written with the audience in mind, and designed to appeal to them.  The messages need to be clear, focused and provide a compelling call to action for readers.  Before one ditches this tried-and-true tactic, the content that the organization has published warrants a close look. In reality, publishing boring content that appeals to no one is the tactic that should fall by the wayside.

Learn more about how to use press releases and other tactics to drive discovery of your company’s messages and the content you’ve worked to hard to publish on our free webinar  Tuesday, Nov. 19. REGISTER

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Refresh your press releases with these new school press release tactics — this free ebook has lots of  ideas and examples that inspire.   eBook: New School PR Tactics 

4 Comments on Blog Post Title

Maggie Patterson (@magspatterson) 10:18 EST on Nov 13, 2013

Hey Sarah – Great post. I’m thrilled that we an open up a debate to get people thinking about how to use press releases properly. My goal was to provoke discussion and get rid of exactly what you point out above – badly written, boring releases that are simply not strategic.

Am I anti-press release? Absolutely not. They are a valuable tool among many for today’s marketers.

The world can only benefit from releases that are well-written and designed to meet business goals, which I think is what we both want to see.

Michael Iwasaki 14:48 EST on Nov 19, 2013

Sara, Excellent information about a press release. It seems in this day an age, people are confused about what they are really meant for. Most releases are exactly like Maggie stated “boring and poorly written.

Great information, Thank you, Michael.

Julia McCoy 20:49 EST on Nov 19, 2013

This is one of the best blogs on the topic I have read – especially vital to today’s ever-circulating question “does the press release still work?” or even worse, the many common assumptions on the matter “well, I heard my friend say she didn’t get anything out of it,” or “I heard Matt Cutts say it’s outdated.” So, we need more blogs that show press releases ARE a positive force in the online marketing world.

Online press releases WORK as long as you are circulating a high quality written press release, which as a copywriting agency owner, I take very seriously. My PR writing team includes qualified journalists to write the PR, editors to format them, and overall expertise/qualification in this area. This will really make a difference in the quality of the news piece and the resounding effect a distributed press release can have.

A.PR.Firm 01:44 EST on Nov 21, 2013

Reblogged this on A.PR.Firm and commented: A counter to Maggie Patterson’s post 5 ways to ditch press releases Sarah S. From PR Newswire sounds off. The debate has begun with whom do you agree?

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