Laura Pevehouse Thomas

The Press Release: Just Walk Away PR


The press release won’t die.

When asked if it will, Wendy Artman of GroundFloor Media says, “I will always respond by saying absolutely not! When pitching reporters, more often than not they ask for a release.”

But, the press release’s audience has really become anyone on the internet. One idea to take it forward is to trade it for a blog post.

Jeremy Porter, co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a blog about public relations and journalism topics thinks, as I do, that there is little return on the investment in creating and distributing a press release. “The results tend to be pretty lackluster, even from those fancy multimedia or social news releases. There has to be a better way, and I think that way is a news blog,” he says.

I agree – with the caveat that the blog can’t just be filled with typical press release jargon.
Most Overused Jargon in Press Releases
Blog Post as Alternate to Press Release

One UK brand makes no bones about using press releases on their blog, creatively titled: “Masteel Corporate Blog: Latest News, Press Releases & Announcements” But, they’re not alone. A Google search of “corporate blog press release” will turn up many that openly state their intention to post press releases on their blog.

I tend to side with people like Mindy Withrow, a content strategist at Hanson, who suggested the difference between a press release and a blog post is that the first makes an announcement while the second initiates a conversation (at least that’s the hope of those of us who do blog). A good example from Mindy of how a blog post should be different from a press release is that of a product launch. She says, “Leave the SKUs for the press release but interview the inventor on the blog about what inspired the product.”

Getting beyond the press release as blog post is a conversation Dell’s Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca and I certainly had back in the early days when we were launching Direct2Dell and it remains part of his tips for business blogging: “Provide an inside look. Content should complement, but also offer a different view than corporate website content, press releases, and other brand communications.”

This doesn’t mean it simply becomes the dumping ground for anything not deemed “press release worthy.”

While PRNewswire might posit that press releases are “authoritative statements” to which blogs are more supplement, if blogs are really going to replace the press release they must become the primary means of news distribution rather than the supplement.

So where does this leave us today and where can we take it tomorrow? Here’s my two cents.

Just Because It Won’t Die, You Don’t Have to Feed It

Public relations professionals should just walk away from the press release. It’s a zombie that will only eat our brains. It doesn’t reach our intended audience and therefore provides little return on the investment in time and wire distribution services. For those that can’t go cold turkey, at least consider a “press release diet.”
Do Not Feed the Zombie
Instead of spending time killing yourself a little every day trying to get non-jargon-y content and interesting quotes through of a committee of sales, marketing and legal teams, spend that time getting to know the journalists and bloggers that are interested in what your business does. And those who aren’t, but you truly believe their readers are – which is even harder. Follow them on social media, engage in conversation without a motive, be helpful even when it isn’t going to gain column inches.

Zombies are very trendy these days, though, and there is return on a press release in regards to the creation of online content that improves SEO and provides collateral for sales teams. Therefore, the press release as a tool should move to the domain of marketing. No more arguing about whether a topic is worthy of a press release or not – if marketing wants to pay for the distribution, let them do it. PR teams can reinvest that budget into things like training on how to write for blogs, or online newsrooms, if you will, so that they become the go-to source for information.

Oh Brothers and Sisters Where Art Thou?

And now I’ve spoken my piece and I’ve counted to three. (for those who don’t get that reference)

If only it were that cut and dry. Just because this is what I believe, that doesn’t mean you won’t see my name as the contact on a release coming across the wire in the future. I’m but one person with an idea. If you agree or disagree with the idea, let me know. Perhaps we can’t change today, but we can set the stage for change tomorrow.

Zombie image via Creative Commons by patricneckman

Chart from Ragan’s PR Daily, February 2012

4 comments on “The Press Release: Just Walk Away PR

  1. I agree that corporate press releases seem “canned” these days.
    A blog seems much more personal on the surface, while delivering the same message.
    More thought says both can be of value.
    Great perspective, Laura!

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