Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Whither the Press Release?

There’s an interesting discussion this week via the Forbes website about the role social media plays when considering the tried and true press release. It’s a topic a few clients have recently discussed, as well.

The post is a worthwhile look into the future of the traditional press release, and whether social media channels play a role in the distribution of such content.

A Communications Convention
It’s clear that the press release still plays a crucial role in business-to-business communications and PR.

When issued consistently with a regular cadence, the “lowly” press release is a conventional communications vehicle that serves as the foundation for expanding awareness, engaging relevant media and fueling public relations.   It helps with credibility, SEO and signals a company’s current business activity.

A press release powers other efforts (media placements, reporter contact, web content, blogging, marketing content development, etc.) and has a place in any b-to-b marketing program.

100+ Years and Counting
It’s interesting to note that the first press release was created in 1906, and stayed about the same until the 1990’s when newswire services began to appear. 

Now, PR pros select from a myriad of distribution channels and online news aggregators (PitchEngine for example), many covered here in this blog such as the “one sentence press release” from muckrack.com.  (and yet another recent discovery called “WireTiger”)

An Erroneous Assumption
What bugs me about the headline of the Forbes post, though, is the underlying assumption that social media is another “broadcasting” channel to distribute press releases.

Of course press releases are an important tool for a client to shape the news and create awareness.    It’s unfortunate that some PR folks use social media as a broadcasting tool for sending out press releases and recent client news, and that misses the mark. 

Instead of a “bullhorn”, social media is a powerful listening and engagement tool. 

Social media is all about relevance in message, and relevance in community.  Twitter and LinkedIn facilitate real-time interaction, not just a one-way information flow. 

PR guru David Merman Scott puts it this way in the Forbes article:
Press releases are not a good idea for social networks, the formality of a press release with headline, sub-headline and text is not the sort of formal communications that works well in social networks.  Don’t use a press release format, re-purpose that content into a more informal piece of content, from a blog post, which is what I recommend.”

2012 Predictions
The press release will live on in 2012 and beyond.  It will always play a pivotal role in business-to-business communications.

What should not live on, though, is the assumption that social media is another “distribution channel” for the press release.


  1. Thanks for the informative recap of the Forbes article, Julie. Navigating the nuances of how and when to use press releases and whether social media outlets are appropriate channels to broadcast business news are important conversations.

    Totally agree with David Merman Scott's takeaway - you must respect the channel and engage appropriately or risk alienating your audience.

  2. Well said, thanks for the comment!