Reevaluating the Press Release in the Digital Content Age

The press release has been the workhorse of the public relations industry since the field’s inception, but some PR and marketing pros are now engaged in a serious debate about its value. The news announcement still serves several purposes, from search engine optimization to market education, but some businesses need a reality check about what they can actually accomplish with an isolated press release. In an era when media and content strategies demand deep and broad storytelling methods over a variety of digital and print platforms, the press release still has a role to play – but that role is more limited than it once was.

A concise, jargon-free press release can help you communicate real news directly to your target audiences: customers, prospects, investors or partners. When you embed relevant hyperlinks in such an announcement, it can educate influencers in your market by leading them to resources beyond the release, such as videos, presentations, white papers, spec sheets and other pieces of content. And with keywords in your headline and copy, your press release can help your company get found online.

All of those results are valuable, but if you’re counting on a press release to accomplish the following, you’re in for disappointment.

1. A press release cannot guarantee coverage in publications that matter.

A press release is a nice-to-have for some reporters, but it is hardly the story generator some companies expect it to be. Once, journalists needed those releases to get basic background information and facts about you and your business; now they have Google for that. They also have inboxes full of “news” that may or may not apply to their beats, and they have little time to wade through 1,000-word announcements to figure out which interest them and which don’t. Often, you’re better off sending a short pitch that explains the news and why the reporter and her readers will care, or picking up the phone to discuss it with an established contact. Both approaches take more legwork than sending out a release via mass email or a news wire, but the results are worth the extra effort.

2. A press release cannot find its own readers.

Because every business can essentially become a publisher now (thank you, Internet!), companies can use an announcement to talk directly to their core audiences, even if publications don’t pick up on the news. However, sticking a release on your website doesn’t mean anyone will read it. Optimization and distribution are as essential as the way you explain the news. Did you make the announcement easy to find online? Are your keywords in your headline and subheads? Did you include anchor text based on those keywords? How about images or video? Did you use your social media channels to share the announcement and drive traffic to your site? These are now essential release questions companies should ask right alongside the old-school “who, what, when, where and why.”

3. A press release cannot tell your company’s story in a vacuum.

Whether you’re announcing a new executive, a new customer, a new product, or any other new and important thing, your news is just one bit of your brand’s story. To communicate who you are, what you do, why customers love you and why the market should follow you, you need a range of content. For some companies, that means e-books, webinars or blogs. For others, it means contributed articles, infographics, social media engagement and more.

The press release is not dead, but like so many other modes of communication in the online era, its utility is changing. Whether you lead a startup or an established company, the press release should serve as one tactical option in a strategic media and content marketing plan that includes many other elements.

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