Messaging and company stories circulate through a surplus of multichannel communication tools, so what’s the use of a press release? We can share news updates on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. The reason they continue in most organizations is because people would generally agree they still are needed to announce product launches and news, especially for a publicly traded company. I keep hearing terms and phrases like “back to the basics”, “old school”, or “traditional PR” associated with a press release. It brings into question whether press releases are still relevant and useful. To jump into the issue more and find out other opinions on the matter I asked around to a few people who work in PR followed by a quick Google search.
The Great Press Release Debate
I found a handful of articles which proclaim “No wait, they aren’t dead!” This leads me to believe a strong notion exists in the marketing world that press releases are or at one point in time, were thought to be dead or irrelevant. One blog went as far to say that this debate has been going on for the past ten years! To address this circulating claim that press releases are outdated, there have also been a few articles that speak to the new “modern age” of press releases and tips to keep them current. One of those was written by Brian Solis, in a post about how to revamp your press release strategy. It definitely seems like the value of press releases in today’s social media driven world is debated.
It is understandable.
Press Releases and Social Media
What we need, as discussed by Brian Solis, is to change the way we go about writing the release. At a meeting with Marketo’s director of corporate communications and our team, we dissected a press release to delve into this topic. We projected the document on the wall and spent time sharing how we thought we could improve it. We didn’t analyze grammar or organization; rather we made the editing of the message relatable to us by looking at it through a social media lens.
- If the headline were a Facebook post, would it catch your eye?
- Would you want to learn more if you saw 140 characters of the release as a tweet?
- Is it even interesting at all?
- What would make it more relevant?
- Do you understand what is being said?
- Is the language complicated or unnecessary?
We evaluated the article by looking at these best practices we would use in our own personal posting. We also talked about what we can’t stand seeing on Facebook or Instagram. Really, how many pictures of food can one look at? And right now looking on my Facebook page I could read a long story about some vague drama a friend is going through that reads like a novelette, or look at some girl with a deep-fried bacon cheeseburger next to her face — I guess what I’m getting at is at a certain point you have to be relevant and interesting with your content for it to matter.
The Modern Press Release
No one wants to read about exaggerated company details nor do customers or investors appreciate reading a post filled with bolstered claims, clichés and over used words to describe company growth and news. I think this helps explain the debate about whether traditional press releases are dried out methods, because they have often become a landing page for boring, mundane, or fluffy posts. If all press releases were newsworthy, intriguing, and honest I think they would get a lot more pick up and actually result in real press coverage – which is exactly what they are designed to do. An example of this happened after our MFM press release was sent over the newswire and then a positive article was written shortly after, which can be found here.
It is a far reach to compare Facebook to a press release, and that is not what I am trying to do here. I am simply suggesting that like all content we push out onto the internet, we should be conscious of what we are saying and decide first if it is interesting and clear. Our social media life rules apply to business.
This discussion was a great learning experience and an important lesson in marketing content writing. Rather than blasting out anything and everything, it is better to filter and direct your messages carefully. By doing this, it also drastically improved the press release. I will now, when reviewing press releases, keep social media sites in mind and think to myself “Is this interesting? Have I read something like this before? Is it too much?”
What other filters run through your mind before publishing a press release? Or are press releases a thing of the past?