There’s been some discussion in the PR industry recently about the value of press releases. Are they completely outdated? Do they deliver any real benefit? Is Twitter / Facebook / YouTube the place to go to place your news now? There’s nothing new in this discussion, it’s been going on almost as long as I’ve been involved in the PR industry, but it’s essentially hollow.
A press release is simply a communication with an audience that facilitates some kind of interaction (ultimately there’s no point unless some kind of interaction results). Funnily enough, that’s exactly what the grandly titled ‘social media release’ does and it’s what a YouTube movie does and a blog, Facebook or Twitter post. They may be a less formal means of interacton but they are performing the same basic function.The question that in-house and agency PR people should be asking is “how would my audience like to be communicated with.” Again, nothing new in that discussion – not long ago we had arguments about HTML vs text email. Prior to that it was email vs print and I can even remember (yes, I’m THAT old) when it was fax vs post. The complex thing is the answer, not because it’s fundamentally difficult to work out, but because it takes time and expertise. You see the thing that has changed is that there are so many options and because of that, a massive menu of possibilities for each member of your audience. Amongst the audiences that we deal with in the world of technology PR there are confirmed Tweeters, Facebook junkies and (presumably squared eyed) YouTube fans. We make sure we design campaigns that address those groups on their turf. It’s just common sense after all. But if that was all we did we’d miss a great swathe of people that our clients want to engage with. Some of them do actually want a traditional press release whilst others prefer a short emailed summary. Horses for courses you see. The press release isn’t dead, it’s just evolving and like most evolutionary processes it takes time. Looking back doesn’t help but neither does looking too far forward, you might miss what’s standing in front of you.