Press releases are to public relations like TV commercials are to advertising. In a time of customized messaging – of programmatic advertising and brand-to-consumer tweets – the traditional 30-second spot can come off a bit like a relic of a bygone media era. Rather than tailored to the specific interests of an increasingly granular audience, a press release seems too “one-size-fits-all” to stand on its own and hook an audience.
The press release shares another point of similarity with traditional TV advertising: a lot of smart people have been (wrongly) predicting its demise for some time.
The press release – like any other form of communication – has evolved over time. Once a standalone document that could be blasted out en masse, it now needs to be part of a larger PR toolkit that includes social media outreach, individualized pitches, real-time tie-ins, etc. to generate impact.
For all its limitations, a press release offers a number of strong value propositions to its sender(s) as well as its receiver(s). For the sender, the internal approval process is essential – insuring that whatever goes out to the press is cleared by executive leadership, legal representation, etc. Any mistake – from a factual inaccuracy to a typo – lives on in infamy on the Internet. The formal review process that is required of a press release is integral to protecting an organization from making an irrevocable error.
For the receiver – i.e., the media – the press release is a factual reference sheet. Its headline places the main news value front and center. The spokespeople are identified and quoted. The key story elements – from background facts to company overviews, etc., – are all contained within. The actual format of a press release may seem dated to some – but the notion of it – its purpose and content – is absolutely core to communicating a company’s news to the press. If it were to be eliminated – it would have to be replaced by something very similar in substance, if not style.
It’s about evolution, not elimination. TV advertising has evolved from an isolated channel to working in tandem with digital media; a TV spot is part of the overall cross-channel marketing mix rather than an island all its own. Press releases are evolving as well—from a catch-all press document that stands on its own to a key part of the PR toolkit – most effective when part of a “team.”
There’s no “I” in press release.
Last week, PRWeb got itself into trouble with the release of a fraudulent press release claiming that ICOA, a Wi-Fi provider, was acquired by Google for a cool $400 million.
Shortly after the release went live, executives and those close to the deal at both ICOA and Google denied that such a deal ever took place and that the release was a complete hoax. But not before a heap of news outlets, including the Associated Press and TechCrunch, were duped into covering the story.
Though the source is still being investigated, it is speculated that the release may have been submitted by a stock promoter with questionable intentions, and that it was allowed to go live by PRWeb despite some serious red flags in its content and contact information.
The slip-up has caused a lot of criticism regarding the integrity of news wires such as PRWeb and brings to light the ease in which we often put our trust in “vetted” news sources such as PRWeb in this fast-paced, gotta-keep-up industry.
The debacle with PRWeb is a reminder for all professionals in our digital, Internet-trusting, fast-moving business to not rely on others to do our due diligence for us. It can be difficult to keep up and we all want to be on top of the news for our clients, but there’s certainly something to be said for doing your homework before throwing yourself (or your clients) into the mix.