So You Think You Know About Press Releases

In a market filled with video blogs, live news feeds via Periscope and Meerkat, and photo-driven news reporting, press releases may seem outdated and out of touch with what media wants.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

According to over 400 members of the North American media who responded to Business Wire’s 2015 Media Survey, 66.5% of respondents still prefer to receive their breaking news via an email alert with a link to the full press release. The survey results also indicate that newswire press releases remain the second most preferred method of receiving breaking news by 20.9%.

The art of crafting the perfect press release is still vital for all PR activities. Writing a strong headline, offering a good summary in the first paragraph and highlighting key facts, figures and supporting quotes are still how to sway the media world.

According to the survey, 75.3% of respondents pour through press releases for breaking news, 72.1% interesting story angles and 68.8% supporting facts. If your press release does not offer any of these, then it will be quickly trashed (or forgotten).

The rise of the cover email

What is interesting in this year’s survey results is the rising importance of a cover email. This is the first point of contact between the media and your press release. Offering good story ideas and highlighting worthwhile facts can help drive media interest (and it could give them enough impetus to click that embedded link).

Story pitches follow the same trend. An email alert with a link to the full press release was preferred by 73.5%, with a newswire press release coming a distant second at 11.6%. This means your press release and accompanying email are going to be vital in getting reported or offering story ideas. There is no substitute for a strong headline and interesting pointers to possible stories.

Website, SEO more important than social media

When the media does their research, they go to corporate sites (88.8%), popular search engines (83.7%) and online newsrooms (76.7%).

That means search engine optimization plays a huge role in being reported. But equally important is ensuring that your corporate site is easy to navigate and your online newsroom is always updated, informative and resource-filled. Poor website design, information-poor newsrooms or difficulty to getting to the right information can be a huge turn-off for the media who have deadlines hanging over their heads.

Multimedia files may seem helpful, but according to the survey, 46.5% feel they do not add any value to a press release. Of those who do look for multimedia files, they prefer photos (82.8%). Other files that are preferred include graphics (48.4%) and videos (13%).

So what about social media? A quarter (25.2%) of those surveyed still rely on traditional channels to do research. For those who do research via social media, they prefer Twitter (24.7%), LinkedIn (19.1%) and Facebook (13%).

However, when it comes pitching via social media, forget it. According to the survey, 74% do not prefer getting a pitch through social media. The minority that do like it, prefer being pitched via Twitter.

Media’s future is still being rewritten

As you craft your perfect press release, remember that the media industry is changing – fast. With online, mobile and social media disrupting traditional media, how we read news is changing. In turn, this is changing how news is being reported.

According to the survey, media chose BuzzFeed (33.5%), famed for its short, news snippets, over traditional long form news sources like The New York Times (27.9%) and search engine hosted news (15.8%).

They also plan to incorporate live streaming technologies like Periscope and Meerkat into their reporting more than traditional multimedia sources like Getty or the AP, and offering the right resources and opportunities for these will greatly help in being heard and reported in the future.

One of the biggest changes in terms of media in the last decade has been the rise of new technologies and their impact on news creation, delivery and consumption. For media outlets, the biggest shift continues to be the movement of readership from print to web, and now mobile devices. With this shift comes a need for faster content creation, resulting in the need for faster turnaround times.

At the end of the day, a PR professional needs to utilize all of the tools possible to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of how media is reported. And we need to ask ourselves how we can add value and potentially increase the likelihood of our stories getting covered.