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Live, Press Release, Live

March 17, 2011

The press release is dead.

Long live the press release.

It’s been five years since Tom Foremski famously bemoaned press releases in his “Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!” post. But a funny thing happened on the way to its imminent demise. Despite intense debate and attempts to fundamentally alter their structure (see: social media releases), press releases continue to thrive and play a major role in news distribution.

I was reminded of this the other day when a client suggested we didn’t need a press release for what amounted to a significant piece of news. Which begged the question, “How will you alert your constituencies?” If you’re Microsoft or a politician or someone else with an intense, captive following, then you may have developed other mechanisms. Could be a corporate blog. Could be Twitter.

But what if you haven’t, or aren’t yet capable, of building these channels into tools for news distribution. For you, press releases remain a viable, important method of communicating with key stakeholders. They may serve to attract mass media coverage, to increase SEO, to get reporters’ attention or just to provide content for your website. Like everything else in marketing, there is no execution that works across the board. Every situation, every client, is unique.

While journalists may say they bemoan the press release, they quietly continue to value them. A study released last year by the Oriella PR Network shows that 75% of journalists find press releases useful assuming the content is “high quality and well targeted.” I can’t tell you how many times one will say, “Can you send me a release?”

That’s not to say press releases can’t be a problem. The spam release is the scourge on the industry. We must do a better job identifying and distributing only to the right media. We must avoid the temptation to use gratuitous superlatives. And I welcome those journalists who call out those who don’t adhere, who continue to spray and pray.

But let’s come back toward equilibrium. It’s easy to wish the death of the press release. And, quite frankly, it’s not the most rewarding part of the job. But our jobs would be more difficult without them – and clients would pay the ultimate price.

Photo: Jordan Polizzi