Is The News Release — aka Press Release — Dead?

There was a long, lengthy and actually quite interesting (for communication nerds like me, anyway…) discussion in a LinkedIn group recently about the proper terminology for a commonly used communication tool designed to generate interest from the media — is it a “press” release, a “news” release, a “media” release or something else? Truth be told, it probably doesn’t matter what we call it — what really matters, pointed out the pragmatists in the group — is whether or not the desired results are achieved. And that created an entirely separate discussion! Regardless of what you call it, is the practice of sending out self-proclaiming statements via “snail” mail or, now, email, a thing of the past? Are there better, more effective, means of generating media attention? The answer–yes, and no…

First things first. What should we call this thing? Personally, I’ve long felt that “news release” was the most appropriate term, since the use of the word “press” suggests an era in which only newspapers carried news. With the advent of broadcast and, now, online media, the use of the term “press release” seems frankly outdated. Some pointed out, though, that the term “news release” is somewhat presumptive, declaring that the information being sent is, in fact, news when those on both sides of the desk (journalists and PR folks) know that this is not always the case. Often these communications are more marketing messages than news. A third alternative: “media release.” I haven’t heard that term used broadly, but I like it. It’s broader than “press,” it doesn’t presume to judge whether or not the content is truly “news” (that is, after all, the role of the media), and it does encapsulate the audience for these messages — the media — whether they’re in traditional or new media roles. So…my pick: media release.

But, as previously suggested, what we call it isn’t as important as whether it generates results. And that brings up an entirely different question: “Is the press/news/media release dead?” Do we even need this tool anymore?

IMO, I think that certainly, for small businesses, these releases represent an outmoded means of attempting to gain media exposure. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Obviously the advent of social media and online communication, including access to journalists and reporters is one reason
  • Somewhat related is that, because of the use of online communication and the ability to literally target hundreds – even thousands – of media contacts with one email blast, there has been a significant pushback from journalists and reporters against these mass kinds of contacts which really makes the traditional press release rather useless in light of a preference for more focused communication
What can you do to fill the gap that these tools used to fill? A number of things:
  • Identify and establish relationships with key media contacts in your market — build these relationships by remaining focused on delivering information that is more news than marketing focused.
  • Establish social media sites designed to connect directly with your target audiences (including media). This might include any number of combinations among sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, etc.
  • Develop contact lists of customers, prospects and other key audiences and communicate with them directly using email, e-newsletters, etc. — but, again, make sure the information you convey is more informational than promotional.
  • Deliver a good product, backed by great service, and encourage your customers to spread the word–word-of-mouth marketing remains one of the key ways that businesses of any size gain marketing traction for their products and services.
What do you think? Are you still using this form of communication to generate media attention? Or, have you found other ways to raise awareness and preference for what you have to offer?
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