Press Releases are Dead! Or Are They?

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It’s no secret that the PR industry is undergoing a fundamental change and PR professionals are under greater pressure to evolve themselves and their techniques in order to maintain their competitive edge. With the proliferation of the Internet and the Social Web, traditional tools used to communicate are facing a similar dilemma.  Are social media news releases (SMNRs) more effective than traditional press releases? Some argue that press releases are dead!  

According to a recent study by HubSpot, an Internet marketing firm, when comparing the results of social media releases and traditional releases, the traditional release format performed much better than SMNRs as they are less syndicated and were not as effective in terms of getting out your message across a broader target audience. 

To better understand what other PR professionals think and whether they agreed with this notion of press releases being more effective than SMNRs, I took this question to a colleague and friend of mine, Carol Hanko of Lois Paul and Partners.  She recalled a conversation with a very large client of hers who uses both. Their client experienced significant Web traffic spikes when they used the social media templates (and she’s seen this on a consistent basis) than traditional releases.

What do you say? From a real world experience, I have to say we’re one of those companies that has taken a hybrid approach to levering our communication tools.  We use both for several reasons: for the media to communicate our news and releases, increase our SEO, and engage the buyer personas.  We use a social media template to distribute our news around campaign announcements, product announcements and webinar announcements, etc. and embed social media links to our various channels that are relevant to the news itself such as YouTube channel, etc. to generate Web traffic and search engine optimization.  

However, when we package corporate level announcements, we tend to go the traditional route with either BusinessWire or MarketWire.  Since using our social media templates across PRWeb, we’ve had tremendous success. Our Web traffic increased significantly and our ability to reach key bloggers and influential online business publications have been exceptional.  What we’ve found to be great with SMNRs is the ability to embedd multi-media components such as your corporate blog, Facebook, whitepapers, podcasts, or YouTube channel to get it in the hands of the right people and the audience (media, analysts, industry bloggers, and buyer personas).  What’s important for companies that are still grappling with this is that they need to understand who their target audience is and what they want to accomplish with their news.

Brian Solis, a leading social media expert and blogger, wrote a blog on this recently, stating that press releases are finally tasting reinvention as it transforms to chase the new channels of influence as well as adapt to the rapidly shifting behavior of content discovery, consumption and sharing. Whether you decide to do the traditional route, take good advice on how to evolve your press releases while experimenting with new tools to see what they generate for you.

A few tips to evolve your techniques. Why? Let’s face it, with your communication tools, you’re hoping to do a few things – reach the reporters and analysts, gain traffic on your Web, target key online pubs and blogs as well as your target buyers. Whatever the reason may be, one simple rule applies whether it’s SMNRs or news releases – KISS – keep it simple stupid.

  • Keep it simple stupid – tell the story in the headline and support it in the subtitle.  Take the opportunity to tell a story.  The top line message should be right at the top so reporters don’t have to read your entire gobbly gook to understand what you’re trying to communicate. They can get the story at a first glance.
  • Link it – let’s face it. Everything is on the Web today so if you have Webinars, product news, landing pages, etc., link it so you create a single resource page under SMNR or news release.  Also, if you have a great blog post on this, link it.
  • Enrich your multi-media channels – your communication tool is designed to reach a broad audience so why not take advantage of this across various news outlets by promoting your multi-media channels.  For example, take a look at one of our SMNR and embed videos, ebooks, whitepapers, or podcast at the bottom to enrich it further: The Salvation Army Protects The Integrity Of Data And Global Brand With Lumension’s Data Protection Solution.
  • Embed, Embed, Embed – if you have a YouTube channel, one great thing about SMNR is that you can embed videos (on your YouTube channel) directly to your release or at the bottom so readers can automatically click on the video to view the content. This is a great way to build YouTube views but also create awareness around your multi-media channels.
  • SEO – again, today it’s all about the Web and driving traffic to your Website is becoming a top priority of many businesses today, including mine. The tool is not only for lead generation, it’s about integrating its value across the entire marketing function (advertising, PR, social media, lead generation, etc.) and mapping it to the company’s business goals. Work with your marketing folks to understand key search terms and include these terms in your external content tohelp optimize Web searches – key terms that are relevant to the news you’re putting out there.  Not to mention, include these key search terms across media pitches to remain consistent.

As Carol puts it, this is an ongoing debate but the verdict is still out. In my point of view, it’s about understanding the full benefits of what SMNRs can offer versus a traditional release and taking a hybrid approach to test out what works best for you.

For more on social media templates, go to: http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/—816994.html 

Yes folks, the verdict is still out! Not sure if we will get this answered anytime soon, but I strongly urge you to look into taking a hybrid approach and determine the results for yourself. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. Hi Cindy – Great post, and a belated congratulations on the blog! Thanks for highlighting Carol Hanko’s points. I built off of some of them in my post here: http://blog.loispaul.com/blog/2009/05/social-media-release-debate-rages-on.html

    • Thanks Ted. Read your blog and I have to say great minds think alike. This topic, while it’s still being debated, is good for PR pros to take the lead in starting the conversation and demonstrating some real world case studies of what works and what doesn’t. Thanks. Great blog post by the way.

  2. amyjdean says:

    Thanks so much for taking such a thorough look at this issue. Press release distribution has always been an enigma and continues to be. I think you’re absolutely right in taking a hybrid approach based on the specific needs of the client. I recently tried out http://www.pitchengine.com to promote a web site that is specific to Twitter. It’s radically different from the other press release distribution services. I’m still waiting to form an opinion. Let me know what you think.

    • Hi Amy,
      Funny thing. I actually follow your blog. Not sure if I have your Twitter ID. Send that to me so I can follow. Thanks again. I’ll definitely check it out.

  3. Jim Lafferty says:

    This is an excellent article which catalogues the advantages of doing both hard press releases and SMNRs. No choice is really required so I have advised my clients to do both.

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis.

  4. I think it’s everything to do with understanding what news is, the journalists you wish to contact, and the audiences you wish to reach through those journalists. I also think that there’s no single method, and that press releases are still as much a subjective device as an objective one. We have great success with the specialist electronics press using our press releases either verbatim or edited, but still clearly derived from, the original release. A carefully crafted release that provides good news in a tone that doesn’t offend the journalists, but that breaks all the rules of normal press releases (length, links, even a degree of commercial content, etc) will get through. But this doesn’t work with other media. One experience, though, that (for us) seems widespread is that, once a pitch or conversation has been made, even an interview, the closing request is “please send through the press release” (and this often happens ahead of any announcement date). In our experience, media resources are now so thin, they need (even if they don’t welcome) all the support they can get. As ever, though, you have to get the balance right.

    • Thanks Alan for reading the blog. Your comments are very powerful and carries a great deal of weight. I can’t stress enough how important it is to write compelling news – that’s the most critical part of a news release no matter what format it’s in. Also, taking advantage of the release to really promote links, embed key SEOs, and multi-media. Thanks again.

  5. Betsy O'Connell says:

    As someone who only recently switched from the news reporting side of the business, I was never fond of mass-produced, expensive press kits. What I did appreciate was someone understanding my organization, my place in it and tailoring their message for me. How I received it – email, mail, phone (sorry folks, Twitter existed but wasn’t the power that it is today when I left seven months ago) – mattered less than the content and that someone actually did their homework. I’ve used the same approach, with success, for my clients. Granted, the ways to approach writers, editors and producers have changed – LinkedIn and Facebook have been great tools on tracking people down and bypassing the junkmail inboxes of many outlets – but doing the groundwork and undertstanding who you are pitching to and what they need is still the best approach.

  6. Nice writeup Cindy, I agree that a hybrid approach makes sense. On a related note, I think it is beneficial for companies to host their social media newsrooms on their own sites, as opposed to using third-party services (I mean for long-term archiving as opposed to distribution). I wrote this up at http://www.adamsherk.com/public-relations/social-media-newsroom-locatio/

    • Thanks Adam. Great feedback and I’ll definitely take a look at your link. We are currently working on revamping our newsroom to make it one stop shop for our audience. Today, it’s not only about reviving your communication tools but also where and how you house those tools. Revamping a newsroom for not just the media/analysts but also for the buyer personas can help your company achieve better visibility. Thanks again.

  7. Thanks for the in-depth post, Cindy. I like how you compare and contrast SMNRs with traditional releases. I think many companies are currently in the in-between stages where their not ready to let go of their old ways but are interested in SMR for all the reasons you mention in your bullet points. Taking a hybrid approach is a great idea, but you’re right to say that the fundamentals of both are in good communication.

    Thanks again for writing!

    • Thank you Chris for your comments. Checked out your blog as well and it seems like an interesting platform to share your experiences and provide a fresh perspective from a new grad moving into the PR / Social Media space. This is an exciting time for PR/marketing professionals and I think the key thing is to always investigate and learn as much as you can but the fundamental skills of a good public relations person will keep you on the road to success. Times have changed a lot and tools have changed but as long as you can maintain your focus on creating, publishing and promoting compelling content, it’s just a matter of integrating emerging tools and technologies to syndicate that content, reach your audience, and engage. Thanks for visiting. My next blog post is a Q&A with David Meerman Scott (http://webinknow.com) so please be on the lookout for that.

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