Is the Era of the Press Release Over?

  • Press release stock photo

Too often, public relations efforts rely on the outdated and inefficient technique of communicating with the media via press releases. In today’s world, reporters and producers at print and online publications are flooded with press releases. Unless you’re Apple or Google, it’s unlikely your release is going to be read.

Many turn to wire services to avoid competing for reporters’ attention. For just a few hundred dollars you can “publish” and “distribute” a press release to media outlets across the land. Wire services also publish press releases online, and assuming it’s decently written and has good keywords the press release will get a couple hundred clicks. If it’s at all newsworthy, a few bloggers may pick it up and repost to their sites. This is a form coverage, but it’s not what we call “hits.”

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the press release and wire service strategy, it just doesn’t generate the kind of coverage clients really want. We are constantly looking for the best way to deliver our clients’ stories to the reporters and producers they want to reach. The fact is, press releases are only effective if they are personalized and individually pitched to reporters or producers.

However, this personalized approach requires a bit more effort than the wire-release approach, and some announcements may not be worth it. Here are some situations where we opt for a wire service release as opposed to pitching directly to media outlets.

When the news is old. Of course it’s best to present news while it’s relevant, but that’s not always possible. Maybe the client isn’t quite ready to announce that new hire, or wants to hold off a few days on announcing earnings. Or, maybe they want to announce something that happened right before they hired the firm. If there’s insufficient time to generate good earned media, a wire release can be a good way to spread the news without much lead-time.

As an official placeholder. The classic use of the press release is for official announcements—new hires, mergers, financial reports, etc. The press release works for these very well. A wire can service gives some third-party credibility to the announcement beyond the company blog. A wire release won’t spread the news very far, but it will typically increase the search engine rank beyond that of the company site.

When earned media isn’t likely. While we work hard to secure coverage for our clients, sometimes an announcement is not newsworthy enough for story, but it’s important to have the announcement public. We want our clients in the news, because they have something compelling to say, because they have something interesting to contribute to the conversation. A wire release ensures that

The press release will always be an important part of the public relations industry as a means of communicating with media, but here’s a reason PR doesn’t stand for “press release.” We always try to do more with the news of a press release than just get it published online. Wire releases can be very useful when it’s important to “just get the word out there.” Otherwise, we look for much bigger hits.