Michael Wood, Tangerine PR

Member Article

Death of the press release…?

When you work in PR, you hear people ask “is the press release dead?” with the regularity of a train timetable (you know, one in an ideal world). They have long been a staple of any PR campaign, but while social media has profoundly altered the way we talk to both the media and to consumers, the humble release has largely stayed the same. It’s no wonder, then, that many people question their relevance.

In my humble opinion, though, reports of the death of the press release have been greatly exaggerated. It is just as important now as it has ever been, as a tool for organisations to communicate key information to target audiences. However, it is crucial that the format evolves to reflect not just the way the public consumes media, but the way journalists work too.

Journalists live incredibly busy lives and receive hundreds of emails from brands every day, all vying for their attention and cluttering their inboxes. If a release doesn’t grab the reader within the first few seconds, or get to the point immediately, then they are just going to delete it and move on to the next one. Consumers work in precisely the same way when reading newspapers and online, relying on a catchy headline and a concise summary of the story to decide if an article is worth taking the time to read. In this hectic climate, an epic, rambling three-page release is really not going to cut the mustard.

To meet the challenges presented by the social media age, many brands are already experimenting with the way they communicate their news. Amazon, for example, launched the latest Kindle Fire tablet with 14 tweets, each focusing on a different specification of the product, alongside a traditional press release. Dell, meanwhile, makes corporate and service announcements through its company blog, rather than issuing a statement to the media. These campaigns were well-received by journalists, who appreciated the departure from the standard statement in an email attachment.

The short and snappy nature of Twitter and blogging lends itself well to communications with time-poor journalists and busy consumers too. However, they cannot convey the information and detail that a well-written press release can – precisely why Amazon had to issue a release alongside its innovative Twitter launch.

So, what can we learn from all of this? Clearly, the way we write press releases needs to reflect the world we live in now. This means attention-grabbing headlines, yes, but also ensuring that the story is conveyed clearly and concisely, within the first 100 words. It means writing every piece of communication in the brand’s unique voice, helping to distinguish it from the host of identikit press releases issued to journalists every day.

And in this age of instant gratification, the inclusion of high-quality images and videos are a must too. On average, visuals receive 84 per cent more views and 40 times more shares than traditional text-only content, making them crucial not just for persuading journalists to cover the story, but for holding consumers’ attention too. The use of such content can encourage readers to pass the story on to their friends and family, ensuring the brand’s key messaging reaches as many people as possible.

Communications are in a constant state of flux, and it’s important for brands’ PR programmes and the content they produce to evolve at the same time to ensure they continue to resonate with both journalists and their target audiences. Leading PR consultancies work tirelessly to offer the insight to brands to help them keep on top of changes, by talking with journalists, studying how media is consumed by target audiences, and developing communications strategies and written content accordingly.

We are not about to see the end of the press release any time soon. However, it is clear that the release is now just one of a broad pantheon of communications formats that brands should be using to get their message across to both the media and end consumers. By taking advantage of the knowledge of PR experts, they can ensure their releases and their campaign in general meet journalists’ needs and those of their target audience too.

By Michael Wood, Senior B2B Copywriter, Tangerine PR

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Michael Wood .

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