The Venerable Press Release Is Here to Stay

Press releases have often received scorn from companies, and in the recent decade as social media has taken center stage, the decibel for its abolition has definitely grown louder. Popular grumbles we hear from clients and prospective clients include:

  • Why do we need a press release when we have a blog?
  • We can socialize announcements, so what’s the point of an official press release?
  • Who reads them?

Let’s start with the last question first: readership. The simple truth is that press releases are not for marketing and sales professionals. And unless it’s part of a public announcement, it’s really not for consumption by the general public, either.

The purpose of most press releases is to condense the facts and give critical takeaways for the media to digest. The trick is making it attractive enough for journalists to report on or to include in an article. Press releases can also act as official announcements, which may or may not be covered by the media, as well as being reference material for employees, prospective employees, investors and potential investors, customers and prospective customers, and other stakeholders.

In today’s digital-led and social media-paced world, press releases do matter. A lot. Many journalists track social feeds and stalk company discussions to get new angles on a beat. But they still rely on press releases to sieve through the facts and understand a company’s moves.

In fact, the purpose of press releases has actually evolved, not diminished. While it is no longer the only official voice of a company – there are now plenty of channels for that, both formal and informal – it does offer the facts in a manner that journalists can quickly read, digest, and understand.

This is one reason why we think the press release should keep to its formal and factual tone. A brilliant press release, written concisely for journalists who are too busy to read beyond the first screen scroll, will convey everything the journalist needs, regardless of whether they read it fully or merely skim over it.

Lastly, press releases are essential for search engine optimization (SEO), which is often overlooked. It allows investors, customers, and even employees to learn about the company when doing a keyword search.

So why is your press release not garnering media love?

There are several explanations, but here are four reasons why a press release may not be driving results:

  1. Wrong intent: Many communications professionals are also involved in social media marketing (SMM) and online brand awareness. It’s natural to see the low traction rate of a press release and demote it as useless. Yet, press releases are not designed for maximum reach. Think of it as precision marketing for a very cynical audience (the media), whereas your SMM and online marketing efforts are more like mass marketing.
  2. Fluff-heavy: Style matters for press releases. There’s a reason they follow a restrictive style. It’s meant to convey key facts in the most effective way. Today’s ever-busy journalists have an ultra-low tolerance for sales and marketing fluff, which is why press releases shouldn’t be written as blogs (although many companies insist they do).
  3. Unfair expectations: Press releases are not designed to sell themselves; marketing materials are. So, when press releases attract low click-throughs or pageviews, companies often see more value in marketing efforts like their corporate blogs and social media feeds. Instead, companies should see press releases as a completely separate effort.
  4. Poorly written: It may sound obvious, but the internet is littered with poorly written press releases. Besides the reputational risk, such press releases risk disrupting potential relationships with journalists. It’s important to find the non-promotional angle of a press release and why the news is important and beneficial for the industry, not simply self-serving for the company.

Press releases are here to stay, and that’s good news as they are a great tool for cultivating relationships with the media. While many predict their demise, they continue to hold sway among the majority of journalists. In fact, the influence of press releases has actually gotten stronger, as many journalists look for facts and truths amid fake news (interesting point: you seldom see fake news as press releases).

Instead of predicting its demise or looking for other alternatives, invest in writing press releases that rock!

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(Original piece first ran on MediaPost.)

Featured image – pikisuperstar / www.freepik.com

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