A recent survey of corporate communicators indicates that 49 percent believe that press releases are still “as useful as ever” and are not likely to go away soon.
Even so, the 49 percent figure reveals that the old tried-and-true press release device is diminishing in value in the eyes of media professionals. Journalists and bloggers who work in the social media sphere frequently are finding other ways to get the big story.
PR professionals who participated in the poll, conducted by Ragan Communications and PollStream, attributed the decline in the value of press releases to the growth in the use of social media (Facebook, YouTube, twitter, Digg, etc.) and the decline of newspapers and magazines.
The downward trend in the value of press releases has been felt here at Drake Cooper as well. We don’t use them as much as we used to. As Joanne Taylor, our PR Director, notes in the PR section of Drake Cooper’s web site, “to be effective, we have to work harder” than just issuing a press release. She’s right.
We still find that when we have solid news to report, a press release can be an effective device. But to reach the media and bloggers in the social media sphere, we often post a social media news release (SMR) on PitchEngine, a very effective tool for spreading news online. The SMR should include photos, web links and video — more interactive content that readers expect to see online these days. All of that is part of the extra effort.
In lieu of press releases, we often send out an individual story pitch to editors, a pitch that is customized to the audience and focus of their publication. A story pitch is usually just a couple of sentences to give the “elevator” pitch to an editor that fits his or her notoriously short attention span.
We also are producing more videos for clients to tell stories to the news media. The videos often have more lasting value, and they can be posted on a client’s web site and shared on YouTube, Facebook, etc., adding to the number of people who view them by many fold.
So in a way, the poll of corporate PR folks was not necessarily new “news,” but it is interesting to watch the trends in the rapidly changing world of public relations. If anything, some corporations have undermined the value of press releases by sending out shamelessly promotional material or glossing over trouble spots. This can undercut their credibility and the believability of press releases in general. We do everything we can do counsel against that type of practice.
Perhaps most telling, even corporate communicators put more trust in information gleaned from the social media than from press releases, according to the poll. Information on corporate web sites was thought to be the least reliable.
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