The press release is not dead – it’s not even sick
If the press release is dead, why am I continuing to use them as an important tool in my daily PR work?
Here’s why – the badly written press release and the press release used badly were never alive to begin with. What IS alive and well is the use of press releases for the following purposes. No tweet, Facebook post or email sent to HARO can do these, at least not well:
- Press releases provide the 5W’s that media use for background on a story. (who, what, where, when, why) THEY DO NOT REPLACE THE PITCH. First I pitch a journalist, then I often send the release as a follow up to provide more detail.
- Press releases provide an important vehicle of information for breaking news or crisis communications. For example, this fall I helped manage media relations for a plane crash that involved a lengthy search and missing family members. The county sheriff’s daily press releases were the key tool to manage the information sent to the media. Without those releases, it would have been chaos.
- Media alerts, or shorter versions of press releases, communicate the basic facts about events to calendar editors and regional dailies and blogs. In fact, many online news sites just use these verbatim.
- Press releases provide good information for TV reporters who need quick sound bytes for their stories, as well as assignment editors looking for the best stories to cover. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked on a story and seen the reporter pulling out my press release as their backgrounder, to prepare for their on air commentary.
- For publicly held companies, the press release is the only way to distribute information that must reach the public first. In the case of mergers and news of this sort, the press release must be distributed over the wire before the news is broken in any other way.
Do journalists and bloggers get tons of spammy releases on a daily basis? You bet they do. Do companies think a press release is all they need to do to generate stories? You bet they do. And it’s been the fault mainly of lousy (and lazy) public relations people try to make a document do their job for them. I agree – let’s kill the bad press release and the press release used badly. But please stop saying that press releases are dead. It’s really annoying for those of us who use them every day.