How relevant is the press release in the digital age?

Communications have changed dramatically over the past few years, people get their news from a multitude of sources and journalists are expected to wear many hats.

Everyone is jostling to get their story out there and consumers have a 24/7 appetite for news. Do journalists want to wade through a traditional press release, the informative sheet encapsulating the story that has been the sales tool of PRs for decades?  Especially when the news can be broken in a blog or a 140 character tweet #breakingnews.

Social media is now well-established in journalism as an information gathering resource along with promotion and interaction. A recent report from Cision on journalists and social media found that 90 percent used Google and Facebook in their line of work, and 42 percent used five or more sources regularly. So in this environment, do media professionals still feel the press release is relevant, rather than a dinosaur, unsuited for the digital age?

The press release has been the ‘must do’ when making a company announcement, rolling out financial results and new product/service launches.  Analysts use them as an alert to new reports and marketing figures. Why do many companies continue to rely on them? Mainly because they are inexpensive to produce and can be easily circulated.

Although the press release is no longer the chief forum for news, it still is popular with the old guard, such as Microsoft and Intel. However those spawned in the digital age, such as Google and Facebook, tend more to social media and web posts.

We believe a potent mix of the press release and digital works best. Take Microsoft’s launch of Windows 10 devices. It used its blog to hype up the news before holding press briefings.  A formal press release was issue and the software giant then used its blog to follow up, offering Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President, Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft personal perspective on the launch. It covered the story from all angles with new and old media and used multimedia extensively.

Companies in general are starting to announce more via social media and in their blogs, encouraging journalists to track their digital footprints. Exclusive leaks, including video and visuals, sometimes used as a tease campaign, are also being used as tools to garner press interest.  But the press release can still create shareable content for social media, encourage story sharing, increase Web traffic with key words and improve the page ranking by getting high quality links.  It can also be easily shared by other online and news gathering sites.

Wider media strategy

Don’t kill off the press release yet. They are still useful, but they should be used where appropriate and as part of a wider media strategy that includes extensive digital outreach.  Instead of using it in isolation, link it to blog posts or infographics, for example. These give journalist much more material to work with. And don’t forget to promote it on social media!

Which every side you stand on the present health of the press release – there is one thing that is way more important.  Actually going out and building relationships with journalists.  The human touch still matters!

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