Is the press release dead?

Is this a good question for Release-Writer to be asking, you might wonder? Actually yes. And the answer to the question is – not quite yet, but the future of the traditional press release is definitely in jeopardy.

I recently read a post by CopyBlogger Brian Clark entitled How to Use the Modern Press Release which discusses the way online communications are bypassing the traditional news media by taking press releases straight to the target audience via distribution services such as PR Web.

Whereas the traditional method is for a PR manager or agency to write a release and distribute to targeted media in the hope that a journalist will see a story worth writing, now the release goes straight onto a PR distribution site. Although intended for journalists, such sites are being accessed by all and sundry searching or blogging for information in their chosen field of interest, effectively bypassing the journalist altogether.

On the assumption that a cleverly distributed release will be picked up in this way by potential clients – or whoever the target audience might be – Clark’s advice is to “stop writing press releases and start writing news stories”.

Absolutely! Who needs a press release when a news story is so much more compelling? In fact, why write press releases at all? In my opinion, a good press release should be written as a news story, barring one or two small differences.

How you get it out there is the point, and mass distribution isn’t necessarily the best bet. In my days as a magazine editor I learned that flooding the retail market with several boxes of magazines doesn’t get you any more sales than careful targeting of retail outlets with a smaller, optimum number of copies. Done cleverly – you can sell more with less.

Clark’s advice, which also draws on David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of PR is sound and sensible. There are clever ways to get your press release noticed by an online audience, while encouraging them to link to your website.

But when you’re looking for effective publicity, cutting out the “media filter” is tantamount to cutting off your nose. Sure, a journalist might pick up your press release from PR Web and run with it in other print, broadcast or internet news media – but there’s a fair amount of finger-crossing going on here.

Our approach is rather to cut out the PR manager/agency and to start with the journalist who writes the news story, while carefully targeting the media we pitch the story to.

In other words, rather than asking a PR agent to write a news story – something they’re not trained to do as such – and hope that a journalist will pick it up, we go straight to the professionals who are trained to write good news stories. They know how to spot a sellable story, how to work up the best angle, how to write to style, etc.

We are then in a strong position to take your story direct to the targeted news editors. We don’t fling it out there and hope for the best. Instead, we work on giving each news editor the kind of story they’re looking for at the right time in their publication cycle.

And we can do this because we are journalists and editors. We know our way around the news media, what gets one story into the news and keeps another out of it.

So you get the best of all worlds. You get an expertly written press release – or rather news story – which is your unique story presented in a style likely to attract your target audience. This goes direct to the decision makers – news editors – and publication is virtually guaranteed in one or more relevant media – whether it be print, broadcast or internet. No finger-crossing needed.

One Response to “Is the press release dead?”

  1. […] in July last year, I asked the question Is the Press Release Dead? That post was triggered by a great eBook just released called The New Rules of PR. The eBook went […]

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