RIP press release?

GravestoneWay back in 1906 the first press release was issued by Ivy Lee, to provide information to journalists following the 1906 Atlantic City train wreck. Decades later, PRs are still writing and distributing press releases to alert media to our client’s news.

But is the press release dead? With social media, blogs and so many online tools to share news, would a journalist rather get a tweet than receive a press release?

I take the stance that, for now, we are still stuck with the press release as an important communications tool. I base this on the fact that every time I have an exchange with a journalist by email, phone, or meeting at a networking event, they ask me to send the press release.

Sometimes, on a few occasions, I’ve been asked to tweet them a story idea, but this is always backed up with a link pointing to the press release.

Here’s three reasons I think we are still stuck with press releases:

1) It is the most effective, brief, way to offer the media a news story, and inform them of all the facts.

2) It frames your news as being current, now, and just released. It gives journalists something to hang a story on, and a reason to write about your client.

3) It becomes part of the story telling process for your client, marking a milestone for their business and showcasing that online, in turn, building valuable SEO.

Still don’t think we need press releases? Here’s more points for my argument:

It gets approved by all

As PRs we’ve got to make sure that all of our client’s team members, including the chief executives, chief marketing officers and even the lawyers, are satisfied with the language and information that you’ll share with the media. A press release gives all those involved a concise and well-written document that is an easy format to review, and, hopefully, agree on. If there are changes to be made to the content of a press release, this can easily be done in Word.

The format is expected

The standard press release format is accepted, and even expected, by journalists. They know they’ll get a document that is written like a news story with the 5 Ws in the first paragraph (Who, What, Where, Why and When) and other information to follow. A good PR will write a press release in the same ‘inverted pyramid’ style that a news story follows. Often, this style and format is good enough for a journalist to cut and paste into the body of their own story.

It proliferates across the web

With so many bloggers rushing to get out news as fast as possible, I often see press releases go deep online and be posted, as is, to blog after blog after blog. Again, when this happens, aren’t you glad that everyone involved is happy with the content and language used?

It helps to think about SEO and use a wire service

A press release is easily posted on a company’s website or blog, and serves as a great way to build up online visibility, with SEO. There are other tricks you can do with a press release to build up SEO, including using keywords for your business niche in your headlines and text body, and distributing the press release with a wire service.

While there are many, many wire services, I usually recommend posting a press release to a service called WebWire.com. This online news distribution service can get you picked up all around the web, and even get you into things like Yahoo! News. WebWire.com’s cheapest version is $30 USD. If you invest a bit more, like $100 USD, or more, you can get wider pickup. It depends on your budget.

Even with $30 — you get to be showcased on this well-networked website, you get to add in multimedia content, and you get social sharing tools.

Being on WebWire also gets you picked up on various news apps out there — like one called Newsle. I found that this kind of third party endorsement, even though it is a paid opportunity, gets your news announcement a lot more respect than just me posting on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

Bored yet? I hope not. Here are yet more reasons why we are stuck with the press release:

√ You’ll reach a wider audience, getting listed in unexplored corners that you would not normally reach out toward.

√ You’ll see your SEO skyrocket.

√ You’ll cement your business into the niche you want to be in, because you’ll be broadcasting those all-important keywords across multiple media platforms.

√ You’ll get important “inbound” links to your website, as the press release is picked up around the web.

√ You’ll build up the story of your business, and, over time, this story should get more and more interesting with each press release you post online. Milestones like investment/funding, new executive hires, product launches, etc. are all marks for your storytelling totem pole. When a journalist or blogger does decide to Google your company, they’ll find a rich trail of credible content and history.

√ You’ll frame your news announcements with a bit of a spin, or a good news hook, that catches attention, but is also an angle that you feel matches your brand’s position well. A press release let’s you shape the story you want to tell, and lead the way with how you will be presented to media and online.

√ You’ll have a document that can be shared across all other social media channels easily.

You may still argue with me that “the press release is dead!” I hope my above reasons will demonstrate to you that, for now, we are still “stuck with it!”

If you have better ideas of how to distribute a press release, please leave a comment and tell us about it. I’ve heard, and experimented, with options such as social media releases, deconstructed press releases and viral marketing ideas. All are groundbreaking approaches to public relations, creative, and, combined with the traditional press release, sometimes work. But I guess I’m still old-fashioned and so are most of the journalists I work with. Let’s hear your views.

Lisa Devaney is an author, and founder and director of Hai Media Group