The Press Release – Know Thyself

By Sarah Montpetit

Things have changed since the creation of the press release more than 100 years ago. The Web and social media have democratized access to information and sparked a publishing revolution. This new digital age—complete with fragmented audiences—has sent traditional news outlets scrambling.

Understandably, the press release is having an identity crisis.

Yeah, why are we doing a press release again?
It never hurts to go back to basics. For a vast majority of organizations, a newswire release has about as much chance of getting spontaneously picked up by the media as a used chewing gum on a New York subway seat. So I would start by asking myself a few questions:

  • Is my story newsworthy enough?
  • If I call it a press release but I don’t use a newswire service, is it still a press release?
  • Do I really just want a news item, blog post or press kit that I can share?
  • Is issuing a press release just my way of trying to make up for the fact that I have no media relations strategy?

The press release was never meant to be an end in itself.  That much hasn’t changed. Paul Wilke’s post about the pros and cons of press releases sums it up nicely: “A press release is a PR tactic, not a strategy.”

When you want media coverage
If you have media coverage as an objective, then you probably need a media relations strategy.

Beyond that, if you’re writing press releases, one thing to keep in mind is that the digitization of media has put incredible pressure on journalists. Heather MacLean gives great advice on how to create and use a press release effectively, and how it is part of the greater “pitching” ecosystem.

Three trends to keep in mind
Regardless of whether you’re writing a press release or other content, the following three points are worth keeping in mind in today’s digital environment.

  1. Shortening attention spans means offering bite-sized, useful, to-the-point and shareable content.
  2. The power of visual content should not be underestimated. Use images and video to work with strong headlines and text for maximum effect.
  3. Audience fragmentation means you need to be clear who your audiences are in order to reach them and share your content with them. Find their preferred social networks, develop relationships with influencers, interact with the community. The upside is that if you truly have something worthwhile to tell them, you have a chance of being heard even without the help of traditional media.

 

Thanks to the Web and social media, there are now more communication tools available along with the possibility of interacting directly with your audiences. This makes it more important than ever to know what you’re about, who your audiences are, what you want to communicate, and the way you want to communicate it.

The press release may be having an identity crisis, but you certainly shouldn’t be.

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