To Press Release or Not: That Ain’t The Question

Among communicators, a quiet war bubbles under the surface. Ok, that’s dramatic, but there is much ado surrounding the presumed death or deliverance of the press release. Does the press release, one of the original and oldest media relations instruments, have a place in this noisy, ever-changing, multi-platform world?

If you’re a PR or Communications professional, you may have a love-hate relationship with the once-revered document. If you’re on the business or organization side, you may just be confused. I mean, if the folks you trust to tell you whether it’s necessary to issue a release have varying opinions, where does that leave you? I will say this, the press release has definitely changed in format, purpose, and effectiveness. Beyond a few free services like PRLog and Wire Service Media, sending a release via wire is still pretty steep – especially when the ROI is difficult to pin down.

What’s an attention-seeker to do? Fret not, pet. Many alternate and arguably more effective methods exist to get the word out. Here are a few tips you can use to get the notoriety you seek.

Send a personal pitch

This is still the go-to. First, make sure your information is newsworthy (of interest to a particular audience). Do the research on what publications and journalists cover the subject-matter. Get to know the format and proper fit, read/watch at least the last few stories they’ve done, and then spend the time to craft an angle that makes sense for them. Reaching out with a tailored ask, married with timeliness, will get your toe in the door. If it’s in the budget, use a service such as Meltwater, Agility PR, or Muck Rack to help you streamline finding the right journalists, their contact info, and preferences. You’re far more likely to receive a response and coverage when you’ve done your homework and taken the time to personalize your outreach.

Change your perspective

The press release was a staple tactic to peek media interest and secure coverage. The release went out; you grab a snack and wait for the journalists to come to you. It’s fair to say across the board, that seldom works anymore. If you view a release as a companion to a newsworthy hook, it’s still a useful document. Think of it as the full bio after the one-liner gets someone to take a second look. It should offer more in-depth information. Add interactive and visual elements such as pictures and video, infographics and social media links. Whatever expanded information an already interested party may need to find out more, and subsequently use it to craft a piece.

Use your own(ed) media

PSA: You’re a publisher too! You have a website, social platforms, a blog–each of these are publishing platforms and media distribution channels. Guess what? You can publish whatever you like, including a press release. For instance, if you have a media section on your site or a business LinkedIn page, post it there for anyone looking for more information à la point 4. Participate in ongoing social conversations and ‘listen’ for key influencers and journalists doing the same. It makes total sense to reach out directly via social media.

Send one out, but selectively

After all, if you do craft a release, consider sending it to a select media list instead of through a wire service. We’ve talked about the necessary skepticism and inherent busyness of journalists, and why that can make it hard to get their attention. Getting a blanket, random release via a wire/distribution service is easy to ignore, and often is. Instead, pull out that list of media contacts you’ve had some success with or just connected with before, and repeat the steps in point 1. Once you’ve created that list, go ahead and send them the release. I still recommend opening your email with a personal pitch and sending the press release in the body of the email – because attachments sent without permission suck. You may also send it as a follow-up to an initial outreach.

To answer the original question – it depends. If it makes sense for your brand, product, event, launch or otherwise to use a press release to help get the message out to your audiences, use it. If a press release continues to work for you, use it. If it’s falling on deaf ears, costing you more than you gain, or simply isn’t resonating with those you share it with, change it up and try something new.

What combination of methods works for you?