By Marie-Noëlle Morency
I have read this over and over again in marketing magazines, often with an apocalyptic kind of tone. ‘’The traditional press release is dead.’’ Ashley Brown, who leads digital communications and social media at The Coca-Cola Company, even made the death of press releases his personal mission: ‘’I want to kill the press release’’, he said.
In 2013, Coca-Cola announced that ‘’for consumers, the corporate website is dead and “press release PR” is on its way out.’’ In an effort to cultivate audience engagement through storytelling, Coca-Cola hired an army of writers with a journalism background to create their own digital magazine, Journey. Content is king, right?
According to Jay Moye, Senior Writer and Editor for Journey, the strategy proved successful from a branding perspective. “We thought people would be looking more at the non-branded stuff,” he said. “We were surprised that pretty much everything we publish about our advertising or our history does incredibly well. We doubled down on Coke-focused content.”
But, let’s face it. Coca-Cola is one the world’s top brands. They have the manpower and money to invest in cutting-edge interactive platforms and top creative senior copywriters. But for other brands that struggle with budgets and resources, press releases are still a much-needed practice to get their name out there.
What digital has brought to the surface though, is the importance of good writing. Lazy and unfocused press releases will not allow brands to cut through the noise and clutter anymore. This is a very important reality check for PR people, as Diane Schwartz, Group Publisher of PR News, says: ‘’PR is storytelling. Good PR practitioners need to be doing storytelling and engage with their audience.‘’
I learned that lesson myself over the last few years. There was a time where I would put out a significant amount of press releases on the wire, and wait to see which ones would catch attention. Not anymore. I focus on quality over quantity. For every press release I write, I carefully choose the headline. I include visuals, infographics and catchy subtitles. And what’s most important, I make sure I do tell a story. Are press releases dead? I don’t believe so. They have so far survived countless death sentences, and maybe that is because they are adaptable and resilient, much like… cats? All puns aside, press releases are simply adapting to digitization of media, and the need for today’s audience to access short and compelling messages.
This may be a challenge for us PR specialists, but I prefer to see this as an inspiring opportunity. After all, I work in communications because I think I have a certain talent for writing stories that will resonate with people. So why not put in the extra effort to reinvent press releases and make them as creative and relevant they can be?