The press release: An extinct species?

By Annabelle Olivier

Has the press release gone the way of the dodo bird?

From "A German Menagerie Being a Folio Collection of 1100 Illustrations of Mammals and Birds" by Edouard Poppig, 1841.
From “A German Menagerie Being a Folio Collection of 1100 Illustrations of Mammals and Birds” by Edouard Poppig, 1841.

I guess that really depends on whom you ask.

As a sometimes web producer for a news outlet, I have to say I do appreciate a well-crafted press release. It makes my job as a curator and creator of online content sooo much easier.

Full disclosure though, I’m not the one who decides whether your story gets coverage, so don’t fire me those e-mails just yet. The assignment editor makes that call.

As recently as July, The Guardian published an article on mastering the art of writing an effective press release. The fact that a renowned newspaper publishes an article on how to write press releases speaks volumes about their usefulness and relevance, at least from the media’s point of view.

The prevalent view in public relations (PR) circles seems to be that media outlets are merely distribution channels and shouldn’t be viewed as an audience. In a guest lecture at McGill University, François Taschereau warned that before spending money on a press release, you should question yourself as to whether the media are really the best middlemen to reach your target audience.

Other pundits argue that in today’s digital world, you don’t need traditional media for distribution at all.

In an online article in Ragan’s PR daily,  Ashley Brown, the head of digital communications and social media for The Coca-Cola Company was quoted as saying he was on a mission to kill the press release.

Why? Because some companies, such as Coca-Cola, have successfully created their own in-house news rooms hiring former journalists to create content that is informative, factual, timely, and compelling.

Essentially what Coca-Cola has done is to offer content directly to consumers based on journalistic style and principles, with an emphasis on good storytelling. Welcome to brand journalism everyone.

As early as 2009, Gary Vaynerchuck was advocating the abolition of press releases saying that they were ludicrous. He implored companies and brands to stop hiring people to write press releases because they have no impact. He even argued that sending a press release was an act of laziness.

WATCH: Storytelling is the Game

At this point you may be wondering who Gary Vaynerchuck is and why I’m quoting him.

Gary Vaynerchuck is CEO and Co-founder of VaynerMedia. In a 2014 Forbes article recognizing the world’s top 40 social marketing talents, Vaynerchuck landed the top prize.

So if you shouldn’t write a press release, what’s a brand to do?

“Storytelling is the way you build a brand,” says Vaynerchuck

“Paint the picture of what your brand is and the way you do that in today’s world is you get into the trenches and you paint that picture a million little times, not just one time.”

When Vaynerchuck refers to trenches he means creating conversations; answer your e-mails, search for you’re a@replies on twitter, go to your Facebook fan page and interact, do short videos, or even do audio recordings on your iPhone.

François Taschereau echoed Vaynerchuck’s sentiment that press releases are a thing of the past. He explained that if you do an online search on any given topic, there’s already a conversation going on. According to Taschereau, the thing to do from a PR perspective is to ask yourself who are the top 10 – 20 influencers in that conversation and how can I join that conversation?

While the press release has not quite gone the way of the Dodo bird–at least not yet. It’s fair to say that the emphasis on storytelling has made the press release evolve into an almost unrecognizable species.

What do you think?

7 thoughts on “The press release: An extinct species?

  1. Whoa! What an interesting, informative, well-written piece. You offer the reader your opinion from personal experience, and it is valuable. I learned something, and I enjoyed learning it. The dodo bird graphic was delightful and fit the article well. (Julie)


  2. I thought it was super interesting to include a poll at the bottom. Well-written article, as Julie says. I personally do believe that there is a place for press releases, such as new product releases, awards that have been won. However the press release is a small (and increasingly smaller) part of the overall picture.


    1. I also enjoyed the poll in your article as well as Gary Vaynerchuck’s video. His ideas mesh well with your points about the relevance of story-telling, and his hard-hitting delivery makes these points stick. You’ve packed a lot of information and insight into your well-crafted article. (Leslie)


  3. Marie-Noëlle

    Well done! Informative and interesting. I agree with the influencers you quoted for the most part, but as I mentioned in my post, some brands simply still can’t do without press releases because of budget and resources constraints. We are not a multi-billion companies! But getting better at storytelling is indeed essential today.


  4. A photo, a video, a poll and a call-out quote. This is like blog-candy!! You also did well at keeping them all targeted on your message in the written blog – not an easy task. Well-worded and supported, your points are made clearly and relatively concisely.


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