No, the press release is not dead

diepressrelease Four years ago, Silicon Valley blogger and ex-FT reporter Tom Foremski famously declared, "Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!"

Central to Foremski’s passionate argument that the demise of the press release would be welcome – indeed, should be encouraged – was a simple journalist’s view:

[...] Press releases are created by committees, edited by lawyers, and then sent out at great expense through Businesswire or PRnewswire to reach the digital and physical trash bins of tens of thousands of journalists.

Whether you agree with Foremski’s views or not, his post unleashed months if not years of debate among many in the PR community, online and offline, about the effectiveness or otherwise of the press release, asking: If it’s so useless, what should replace it?

Spurred by Foremski’s rant, Todd Defren pioneered the concept of the social media press release in 2006, offering a template as an open source contribution to the debate.

The social media release was broadly designed to reflect an evolution in the usefulness of how reporters and editors might prefer to receive announcements, geared more to copy-and-paste and useful links to rich related content elsewhere online than just providing narratives that they ignore anyway.

So what’s happened during the past four years other than debate? Did the press release die? Many experimented with the social media release. Businesses sprang up offering distribution services for such releases (which always seemed slightly oxymoronic to me: publishing your social media release somewhere online is the distribution).

It didn’t really take off, for reasons as varied as because there is no consistent structure or presentation format, lack of understanding on how it is meant to work, and huge lack of interest from journalists.

pressreleasessurvey So far from dying, the press release flourishes. Indeed, a credible survey by the Oriella PR Network shows that nearly 75 percent of journalists questioned  – over 750 in 15 countries during May-June 2010 – said they like to receive email press releases if the content is "high quality and well targeted." Nothing new there!

Does the social media release have a role in the communication toolboxes of PR pros?

I believe it does, depending on many factors including the measurable objective you’re trying to achieve where an announcement of some kind communicated some way (eg, via a press release) plays a key role in you achieving your objective and the recipient of your announcement achieving his or her objective.

Rather than try and replace the traditional press release with a social media version – something that quite a few in the PR community strongly advocated when Foremksi’s post created the initial kerfuffle – I suggest using both in a complementary fashion.

That way, you’ll meet the needs of those who want to receive traditional press releases by email as well as those who will benefit from the interactivity of the social media version.

And who knows – if you offer high quality and well targeted content in both, you might start something evolutionary.

(Originally published on the WCG Common Sense blog.)

About Neville Hobson

Entrepreneurial business communicator with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Co-host of the weekly business podcast For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Also an occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.