Has the Press Release Become Obsolete?

Courtesty of PRMusuem.org

Courtesty of PRMusuem.org

In our business, the press release has always been the primary tool in which we share information regarding our clients with the media. One hundred thirteen years to be exact (written by the PR legend himself Ivy Lee, also a former NYTimes reporter)! Dating back to 1906, the press release has been a staple in our industry, and even as technology has evolved throughout the years, it has remained a key device in the toolbox of some PR professionals’.

Sometimes I wonder though, with all that’s changed, especially now, in a world dominated by social media and instant connections, is the press release still a valuable asset or are these more precise and effective ways a better choice when it comes to conveying information? Depending on who you talk to, you’ll probably get a difference of opinion. There are industry professionals who will tell you the press release should have long been retired, some think its dead right now, and others believe it’s still a viable medium.

This got me thinking about the issue of whether or not the press release is obsolete, and if it isn’t entirely, should it be? I must admit I do find them to be a bit “boring,” especially now when there are so many other options to get our clients out there and in front of the right people. Editors are constantly being pitched with creative hooks and storylines that sending a copy and paste of a release just doesn’t stand out like it used to.

That’s not to say I have completely laid the historic tool to rest just yet. There are certain situations, although minimal, in which I will use one. For instance…..

A business oriented client is announcing a raise of say a few million dollars and they want to announce the news on the wire, as a way to increase their SEO on the topic.

To increase SEO without posting it on the wire.

At times I will use the press release as a reference when attaching it to my formal (creative) pitch. In this case I’ll include more details about the announcement in my press release, including a quote or two from the brand rep so that a writer can review it for further details.

I have found that the best way for myself and my team here at JMGP PR is to secure a placement with a creative/targeted pitch offering an exclusive to an editor. The goal, figure out a story that is important and timely, then weave in your news.

Over the years I’ve made some real connections with editors and on occasion, have had the opportunity to bring up this particular debate. One editor in particular, who I work with on a consistent basis, admits that when press releases overtake her inbox she often finds herself hitting delete without ever reading. As a PR professional, I had to know why and the answer was quite simple. With so many press releases pouring in along with pitches, wading through the emails is extremely time consuming.

For the releases she does open, they don’t stand a chance if they are lengthy. What she wants is something creative and concise, and feels tailored, not general copy that was blasted out to hundreds of other media outlets.  

Not only did I find her reasons interesting, I made sure to make a mental note of them because if she felt this way, I had to believe so did a lot of other editors. And that’s one of the things I love about this business; no matter how long you’re in it, you’re constantly learning something new. 

There is no right or wrong answer on this subject, and while some of us have moved away from using the press release and found alternative methods to share our clients’ news, others continue to believe it is still a useful tool.

So….I’m calling out to all editors, journalists, and industry professionals. What is your take on the press release? Do you think it’s still alive, on its way out, or completely extinct? Share your thoughts and stories with us here at office@jmgpr.com. We’d love to hear from you!