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 This online news distribution service can get you picked up all around the web, and even get you into things like Yahoo! News.’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

  • Lance Concannon

    I did some research a couple of years ago to examine the claim that journalists don’t like press releases and would prefer to be pitched through Twitter or other social networks. I got my team to survey 73 UK journalists across various trade, national and broadcast media outlets about how they use social channels professionally and what sources of information are considered most useful.

    Long story short – email and press releases are still considered much more useful information sources for professional journalists than any social media channels. The press release is not going away any time soon.

  • Lisa Devaney

    That’s key learnings Lance! I’m glad to hear there is some concrete research to back up my claim that the press release isn’t dead. I’ve had mixed success in using Twitter to pich journalists, and sometimes it just irritates them immensely. And even if they agree to a story by a tweet, they then want to see the press release.

  • Laura Denise McLean

    I agree with you, the press release is not dead but it has and needs to continually evolve as our job is to give journalists and influencers exactly what they want.

    With the continual growth in online news consumption this means you have to provide journalists with high quality videos, images, info-graphics and any other relevant assets where possible. Just look at any online news publication, the most read and engaging stories will be made up of a combination of these elements.

    However, I disagree that using wire services to distribute your press releases is a good way to build up your online visibility through SEO. Google now penalises sites with low quality, duplicate content and the “fake coverage” and dodgy links you get by auto posting releases to low end sites will actually damage your SEO. Also check out the impact Google’s Panda 4.0,that launched in May this year, has had on press release distribution sites like which dropped a massive 63% in SEO visibility according to SearchMetrics.

    Setting up an online newsroom on your organisation’s website where you can post all of your press releases, videos, images and other content will boost your SEO as Google Hummingbird actually rewards sites which provide high quality content!

    While nothing beats building strong relationships with journalists and influencers, an online newsroom will increase your chances of attaining good quality coverage by providing visitors to your site with an easy to access central hub filled with traditional releases, brand logos, images, videos and everything a journalist needs to write a strong and engaging story about you.

  • Lisa Devaney

    Thanks for your comment Laura and insight about SEO. Yes, online newsrooms are great tools, but not everyone has them — one reason I like It has plenty of multimedia functions, and serves well if you don’t have a great online newsroom. They are a lot cheaper than other services and I find it to be a good place for a press release, and multimedia assets to live online for everyone to acces. Just for the record, I don’t mess around with dodgy links or other tricky SEO tactics, but I do think it is important to use your keywords where you sensibly can, to carve out your niche. Setting up your own blog and blogging/talking about your…press release announcement is sometimes helpful for that. One day, I think we’ll move on from the standard press release, and I have certainly pushed the envelope in this area with video news announcements, tweets, blogs, etc., but the majority of my editorial contacts still ask me for the press release as background. I’m quite surprised by all the reaction to my blog post, it has clearly touched a nerve among PRs. Discussion is good!

  • Laura Denise McLean

    Thanks for responding to my comment Lisa, I really appreciate it. I recommend having a look at, I am sure they can find a solution to suit your budget. is powered by PRNewswire which was one of those affected significantly by Google’s Panda 4.0, I’m afraid it’s best to avoid short cuts & focus on creating great quality releases which you can host on your own site to boost SEO and in order to achieve great quality coverage. Definitely agree about your point on press releases, if journalists want them that’s exactly what you should give them. Really enjoyed reading your article.