Is the press release dead?

press release dead

Traditional media is fading and new media is taking over.

The gatekeepers are vanishing as the numbers of people watching, reading and listening to broadcast media are disppearing.

With the old dying and the new being born, is the press release heading the same way or can it be a relevant and effective channel in the age of digital, the Internet, and narrowcasting?

In a recent episode of contentgroup’s InTransition podcast, Associate Professor Caroline Fisher said that she is surprised that public sector organisations like government agencies and departments “still think that a press release is going to do it.”

Dr Fisher is a lecturer of journalism at the University of Canberra. It was with Caroline’s leadership, along with Professors Glen Fuller and Matthew Ricketson, who saw the University of Canberra become the world’s first university to offer a Bachelor of Journalism majoring in Content Marketing.

If you think your marketing is to just create a media release, Caroline says “it’s time to rethink the overall strategy.”

Caroline says that you cannot stop your marketing effort at the press release.

In the new world, you must complement it with content marketing.

But before we deliver last rites to the media release, maybe there is another way to look at its relevance.

Ryan Holiday, former Director of Marketing for the controversial America Apparel, has different thoughts about press releases.

Using ethically grey tactics, Ryan raised online sales of American Apparel from US$40 million to US$60 million in just 3 years. One of these tactics was the media release.

In his book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, Ryan explains his strategies and techniques for gaining press.

“When I first started in PR,” he says, “all of the leading web gurus were proclaiming the death of the press release. Good riddance, I thought… I could not have been more wrong.”

Ryan came to change his mind. “Before long I came to see the truth: Blogs love press releases. It does every part of their job for them: The material is already written; the angle laid out; the subject newsworthy; and, since it comes from an official newswire, they can blame someone else if the story turns out to be wrong.”

If you search ‘press release’ on the Sydney Morning Herald website, it returns over 3,000 articles. If you search ‘press release’ on The Guardian website, it returns about 151,000 results.

Media releases make the job of the journalist easier. You are helping them find stories, quotes, and material.

In marketing terms, you are ‘optimising the top of the funnel’.

If you want anyone to take an action, such as publish your story, make their job easier.

Ryan Holiday started creating media releases for everything from launching a new product to launching a new colour of a new product. He was richly rewarded with more media coverage.

In a 2010 study by Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism, the authors stated:

And this faster dissemination of news was tied to three other trends. As news is posted faster, often with little enterprise reporting added, the official version of events is becoming more important. We found that official press releases often appear word for word in first accounts of events, though often not noted as such.

Tom Rosenstiel, the Director of the Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism, described it another way:

The other thing that we are seeing clearly is that the power is shifting to news makers and one of the things that’s making this happen is the tendency towards immediately. Things are posted very quickly. Old media are making rapid use of new media technology and while the new technology could offer us a potential for infinite depth it also offers the potential for instant speed. And what we’ve seen in some of our studies is that press release that’s authored by the news-making agency, the government agency or whoever, is often adapted very briefly, or very hastily and reposted by a news organisation as a kind of quick story. And that moves and sort of establishes a baseline of what people understand about that event. But it’s much closer to a press release than what was published in the newspaper a few years ago.

Technology is changing the way journalists work which in turn is altering the importance of the media release.

So maybe it’s time to continue with the press release. In fact maybe it’s time to issue more press releases.

This is especially relevant for the public sector. The political, organisation and personal risks in government departments and agencies make them very different to private sector organisations.

What is a press release? A media release is an official statement. You can invest as much time as you please into the wording of this statement. This allows you to reduce the risk by framing your information precisely as you want it to be presented.

Press releases not only work for increasing media coverage, but also provide a higher level of control of risk.

Take full advantage of this.

Use this as one piece in the puzzle of your content marketing strategy.

What is the next press release you will create? Leave us a comment below.

Each week a staff member puts pen to paper to write about an aspect of content communication that speaks to them, and hopefully, informs you. This is a space where our passion for writing, learning and sharing information comes to shine.

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