The press release is Dead. Public relations’ most time-honored tool will soon wind up in a landfill, alongside video cassettes, Hostess Cupcakes, and print newspapers. It’s electronic all the way. Press releases are an anachronism, and the tweet’s the thing — your entire marketing message in 140 characters or less.

Most of the PR people who express this view are of an age where they have not had enough experience with “Old Media” to be declaring it DOA. The press release is not dying; it is evolving, expanding and interacting with “New Media” in dynamic and effective ways.

Unfortunately, some businesses have stopped posting press releases on their web sites, leaving the task of media outreach to their Facebook and Twitter pages.

But social media does not replace a website or an online press kit. Business editors, community newspapers, online news platforms, trade publications – all the outlets a business wants to reach – will look first to a website for current, concise information, written expressly for journalists.

The operative words here are “expressly for journalists.” The Five Ws — Who, What, When, Where, and Why — still apply. A press release needs to be written differently from a marketing copy. It needs to be newsworthy, succinct, factual and to the point. It should avoid editorializing, overblown adjectives, jargon and cliches like “unique,” “cutting edge,” and “paradigm.” Your clients and partners will also appreciate this direct approach, so the press release can be a sales tool. Most importantly, search engines will pick up the release on your website and any media coverage you gain from it — an easy way to get you to the top of the Google charts, and fast!

Every website should have a “Media Section” with links to press releases with current information. There should be a press kit with a general release describing your business and services, a fact sheet on new products, financial reports, special offers, staff appointments, sales, etc. Often, businesses lack any kind of media outreach on their web pages, or worse, have releases on them over an year old. A journalist accessing a site like this is unlikely to do so again.

Press releases are key to gaining local news coverage in relevant trade publications. Even as part of a national brand, corporate communications will not provide that kind of media outreach unless you have a really singular story.

Used properly, the press release is not an anachronism. It’s the launching pad for all your “new media” efforts. E-mail your release to a targeted list of local, regional and national business trade and lifestyle outlets. Post a URL link of the release on other social media outlets. Here is where your press release will do double duty. Posting the link on your Facebook page with a quick comment and an attractive photo will not only draw attention to your press release on Facebook, but the post and the web link will show up on Google as two separate entries.

Tweet the release out, or better yet, tweet out key statements in increments to extend the life of the release and watch it go viral. That’s the key to social media – the rapid spread of information. For example, let’s say your Twitter account has 500 followers. A number of them are journalists on your Media List who are familiar with your business and cover lifestyle, finance, business and events. Suppose you tweet out news about a restaurant you are opening. The restaurant editor of a regional magazine reads it and re-tweets it to her 2,000 Twitter followers. Several of her followers read it and e-mail it to friends saying, “let’s check it out”.

Or, the tweet is picked up by your state’s top business paper with 100,000 followers on Twitter and more on Facebook. They cross post to both sites. Do the math! You have over 202,000 potential readers of your press release.

The press release has a few more tricks up its sleeve. Post the link on other Facebook pages with audiences that might be interested in your news. See if your posts are welcome on the pages of your state’s Department of Economic Development, the Chamber of Commerce, or pages of various companies you do business with.

A growing trend among short-staffed print and online publications is making you, the sender, responsible for posting press releases, event announcements, and photos. At first, this practice was confined to smaller, local online news platforms such as Patch and Topix. But recently, I posted four press releases on the business blog of our state’s largest newspaper. I still sent the releases to reporters and columnists, but these posts ensured the news was out there and ready to be picked up by search engines.

The press release will continue to evolve in format and utilization. It may well outlive some of the more trendy social media sites. The Old and New Media, working in synergy, will deliver much more together than separately

A fan of old media and new, Anne Sweeney is president of Anne Sweeney Public Relations in South Brunswick. She can be reached at 732-329-6629 or aspubrel@aol.com.

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