Press Releases Refused To Die. Now, I Am Glad They Didn’t

I think we could all write a LinkedIn post on “Seven Reasons Why You Absolutely Have to Include the Press Release in your PR Strategy”. I could equally write “The Seven Reason Why a Press Release Shouldn’t be Anywhere Near Your PR Strategy”. 

But you know what… I blow hot and cold on the things – more cold than hot, pretty Arctic at times. Most days, they just feel like that a remaining relic from the old hot metal, print, Old School PR strategy toolbox that’s still hanging on – but some recent positive, indeed surprisingly positive, press release action has given me some pause for thought.

At the same time – the world has changed. Time was, journalists received news in a trickle. Now it’s a firehose – very few reporters have time to read a bunch of releases to sort the wheat from the chaff – life isn’t like that, and we’re also communicating with them in so many different ways. Clients still like them, sure, even if journalists don’t – though they often generate them following that same old mindset, where they announce something and wait for interest. News just doesn’t happen that way now. I try and show clients they’re a bit of a blunt instrument. (There’s also the deadly issue of what a client thinks is headline-grabbing – “We’ve just opened an office in Grimsby” – is still there!)

A really critical one for me is that you’re supposed to use a release for big pieces of news for something that’s a really big deal about your company. You’d have thought your company being acquired by LinkedIn was such an example; you’d put a press release out about that. But when that company acquired our client Glint, that story was revealed on two LinkedIn posts by the CEOs of both companies… 

I asked one freelance writer for his opinion on press releases. Here is what he, Gary Flood[1], said

“When I started off – on a paper weekly, how long ago that seems now! – we had a News Editor who just flicked through like 200, 300 releases and assigned the ones to you that she thought possibly relevant, and you slimmed that pile down to more like 6 or 7. So even in ‘the good old days’, there was a lot that got discarded. 

“These days, I will still use something like Google News to do the same job of filtering – and you know what, you’d be surprised at how close the published story is to the original vendor of government body PR. Journalism is on its uppers these days, so for News especially there’s no time for secondary sourcing or doing a call – the release is pretty much all you use now.”

I’m sure Gary is right, and I am just about to say that the PR, done well, should indeed be “all you use”. But I don’t really like pumping them out as the primary news-attention channel. We used to talk about them being really good for SEO or getting picked up by the news robots, but I think Google has sussed out the keyword-written press releases.

A bang-on hit – though not with a journalist

I’d say they were pretty heavy nails in the coffin here, but note I’m only talking about news; PRs remain a very good general communication discipline. Clients often struggle to tell their story in a coherent, impactful way, and so a press release format forces that crispness in their messaging and can be a really good filter: if this story of yours can’t be told in a really strong headline, sub-headline, and opening paragraph format, then there’s something wrong, we need to work on this a bit more.

That, and the journal of record idea – that you milestone the client’s journey on their site with releases that you don’t expect to get picked up but still show definite forward momentum, like a new office in this country, a new customer win, a new heavy-hitter has joined – that’s always valid. I just did one this morning: a big US financial services firm has just bought its solution for a very specific regulatory reporting regulation that’s known worldwide. There was little to nothing in the press release, by the time it came back all the colour had been cut out of it, it literally had a headline, a sub-headline and an opening paragraph and it had an “about us” and “about them”. I explained to the client that its value was still high, because it’s your name associated with this bigger brand buying that from you, so that could help others to think to do the same thing, et cetera. 

Now, I had no expectations. But something interesting happened; because we wanted the US to know about it, we reluctantly put it out on the US wire, which is a not insignificant cost to do, to be honest. Like I said – very little content here. But – a US financial institution got in touch with me, having just seen the press release and wanted to hear more… because they were looking for solutions that did exactly this, and they actually compete with the company that’s just bought it from my client.

Wow, right? This was a first for me in my entire PR career – a customer got in touch with me is because he saw a press release and the media contact was me – a customer who wants to buy. So shut up, Carina – you can’t harp on about press releases being useless and then them driving completely unexpected business your client’s way! This is a case study in how putting out a press release was absolutely the right thing to do – though no-one could expect it to generate a lead within an hour of it going live.

I think the conclusion for me is, yes, keep writing press releases and keep the discipline alive, but it’s only in rare – but very welcome! – cases that they’ll get you attention. That, my loves, is still something you gotta do some actual work for!

Published By

[2]

References

  1. ^ Gary Flood (www.linkedin.com)
  2. ^ (www.linkedin.com)

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