What is the purpose of a press release?

Why our team still uses this valuable tool

 

It has come to our attention that the “press release” is much misunderstood and often maligned. This is no surprise given the changing winds of technology, reporting and public relations itself. So, we want to help bring some clarity to something we feel is still an essential part of a public relations strategy.

 

What is a press release?

 

The press release (also referred to as a media release, news release or press statement) has been used by PR pros for decades to inform, educate and motivate news media to cover an organization, event, product launch or idea.

 

Before the prevalence of the Internet, public relations agencies would send press releases out by the hundreds using the U.S. Postal Service or fax. If you really wanted to get the news out, you might even pay to distribute it straight to the newsroom of your local newspaper or television station via a newswire.

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Prior to information being available at our fingertips 24/7, the press release was the primary and best tool used to share one’s message.

 

Changes In The Digital Age

 

Enter the Internet. It changed everything.

 

No longer do media representatives rely on PR professionals to send a press release with information. Rather, they can seek information out themselves with a quick Google search or scan of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

 

Further, instead of snail mail and fax, press releases are sent via email. Like all of us, reporters receive hundreds (sometimes thousands) of emails a day, making it more likely for a press release to get buried in a reporter’s inbox.

 

But while some PR professionals are ready to put a nail in the coffin of the age-old press release, we aren’t.

 

Why Press Releases Are Still Needed

 

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Our team believes the writing and distributing of press releases is a vital component to every strategy we create. Even though there is a common misperception that distributing a press release will result in hundreds of media responses and interview requests that is realistically hardly ever the result.

 

The honest truth is that rarely does a news release generate more than a few responses.

 

So, why, you ask, do we even bother?

 

Well, we think a press release still serves a very valuable purpose of sharing the overarching, 10,000-foot overview of the key messages of a client’s mission, product, event or leadership. Further, a press release can live on the Internet through an online newsroom so that media (and consumers) can find it as they seek out information.

 

But a press release by itself – without the key elements of a comprehensive public relations campaign – is tragically doomed to fail.

 

Helping The Press Release Thrive

 

Every time we send a news release, we know it is simply priming the pump. Of course, our ultimate hope is that a reporter reads it, loves it and immediately tells us they want an interview for a front-page feature or national television show. But, we are realistic and know it is more likely that a reporter will scan it and file it away as something to keep in mind for the future.

 

That is why a comprehensive public relations plan must include so much more than a press release, targeted strategies that reinforce the overall press release, such as:

 

  • Individual pitch emails and personal phone calls to draw out the more specific elements of the message that will relate to the reporter’s audience or to perhaps provide new information beyond what was in the release;
  • Op-eds, articles and blog posts supporting the message of the news release and tying it into news and culture; and
  • Social media graphics that visually draw out key messages.

 

The press release is not dead, but it cannot live alone. Make sure you are feeding it and it will not only grow but also hopefully thrive.