The debate about whether the press release is dead has been like watching a good tennis match—back and forth, back and forth. Some PR pros have declared the press release dead due to social media and shrinking numbers of journalists. But then, like Colin Clive acting as Henry Frankenstein, there are those who shout “it’s alive!”
Call them press releases or news releases, I don’t care, press releases are indeed alive. I know they work because I have pitched them to journalists and received coverage. I have also received interview requests and seen articles published based on releases distributed through a paid wire service. I’ve had journalists ask me for press releases. Cision’s State of the Media 2016 Report, which surveyed more than 300 journalists and media experts, found that 68 percent of reporters rank press releases as one of the most important PR resources.
Some PR pros say journalists don’t read press releases, but that simply isn’t true. The correct statement is that journalists sometimes read press releases. Here are tips we use when writing releases that ensure they have a better chance of being read by a journalist:
- We know that journalists will more likely read press releases that are relevant and helpful to them—giving them facts they can use. It’s important to remember that press releases are for the press – not a selling tool.
- Target the release to specific audiences and set expectations accordingly. Some media gobble up press releases, while others almost never use them.
- Issuing a press release is a PR tactic, not a strategy. Press releases work best in conjunction with other PR tactics in an ongoing PR effort.
- If you ask people on the street if they know what news is, they would probably say yes, but after 15 years in newspapers and 8 years in PR, I can tell you many people do not understand news the way journalists do. Additionally, it is difficult to judge how newsy something is when it’s about you or your organization. An outside expert perspective is very helpful!
- Don’t issue press releases just for SEO. It may help a company’s SEO if it’s a good release, but you can’t spam releases full of links back to a website. Those days are gone. Google may actually punish for that. Always write fresh, new releases. News coverage, social media mentions of the news, and legit third-party links to the release on a website is what will help your SEO.
- Include multimedia in press releases when it makes sense; that can be helpful to journalists.
- Writing should be concise and clear. This is not new or a result of social media—journalists have always wanted it this way.
While a company may not have immediate success with a press release, a reporter may hold on to the information for a future story. Good press releases also help build relationships with reporters, even if they don’t use them. And remember, while press releases are of course directed to the press, they can be used in other ways, too. Post those releases on your website, blog and social media, so customers, prospects and analysts can find them when they Google.