By Annabelle Olivier
Has the press release gone the way of the dodo bird?
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.
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?