For years now, the Press Release (I’m giving it the proper name treatment for this article) was (and really still is) the de facto method for a company to distribute news. Press Releases go out on the wire (no caps) and show up in the inbox of reporters, based on the regionality of the reporter and the release. In pre-blogger times, this worked out pretty well as there really aren’t that many journalists out there, so the communication flow was fairly efficient. With a supposed 57 million blogs online (personally I think that’s missing a decimal point), all of differing degrees of professionalism, the Press Release method is beginning to crumble.
Accordingly, publicists and PR firms are in search of new methods for distributing their information, including leveraging blogs and social networks. While I think we all should praise these people for seeking out the methods, even though often times the results fall far short of the objectives (3 words: Vista. Ferrari. Bloggers). Stowe Boyd wrote a great piece yesterday on the Social Media Press Release and how incredibly bad an idea it is. For a quick definition (from his post):
For those who have missed the idea, a social media press release is supposed to be a webbish/bloggish version of old timey press releases. These will incorporate elements of the now commonplance blog motif: links, tags, comments, and trackbacks, for example.
As he (and Scoble and Jeremiah and probably many others) have expressed, it’s a bad idea in so many ways. Dominic Jones also blogged on the topic this week, and he proposed a different solution:
News release writers today can learn a lot from the Digg front page. That’s where you will see effective attention grabbers that prompt people to click on links. We’re talking about a linked headline and a 25-word summary.
That’s what a newswire news release should look like in 2007.
I think this is a good idea, but doesn’t properly address the problem. First of all, the fact remains that sources such as AP and Reuters still account for a large part of news flow, both offline and online. The reporters for more traditional outlets don’t necessarily deserve to have their worlds come crashing down just because us “hooligan bloggers” don’t have the patience to read through a full-page of carefully crafted
spin information. And what about financial institutions and analysts, where every word of a news release matters?
I don’t think we can kill the Release just yet, it still serves its purpose. But smart companies should be trying to complement it. Scoble suggested using blogging for all information dissemination – I think using blogging in conjunction with a release is the right idea. Whether it’s 25 words or 40 words or a full page, companies should assign an employee to write a blog post that coincides with and summarizes the release. With this method, bloggers can simply subscribe to the RSS feeds for the companies they want to track. Furthermore, services like PR Newswire can offer aggregated (river) feeds that are companions to the Press Releases themselves.
It may sound like more work, and it is more than what publicists had to do in the past. But it’s probably the most effective method I can think of to address numerous audiences for official company news.
I received over 300 Press Releases in the two weeks prior to CES. I read less than 10. My fault for missing some cool news. Their fault for missing me as a reader.
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Why do we need newswires to distribute full-text when reporters and investors and analysts are accessing the wire services online? Why can’t those online journalists, analysts and investors just click on a headline and go to the full news release on the company’s website if they’re interested?
Sending 1,000 words via a wire service just seems to me like something we do because we’ve always done it that way. So I’m not really questioning the value of releases (social or otherwise), but rather I’m questioning the way they are distributed in full via proprietary networks. I’m also questioning the sustainability of closed, proprietary news distribution networks in an age when we have RSS.
For the record, I think “social” news releases posted on a company’s website are hugely better than traditional releases posted on a company’s website. At least a social release allows people to have input. At least you know it’s a PR pitch and not a fake blog post.
However, in both cases it makes no sense to distribute them in full-text via a wire service.
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Dominic: “Why can’t those online journalists, analysts and investors just click on a headline and go to the full news release on the company’s website if they’re interested?”
With a journalist you need to shout and get heard, so you need to get their attention, not wait for them to click on “ZYZ Corp News” section. I guess its similar to why RSS Readers are a god-send to many of us.
I think Jeremy is on the right track: “Whether it’s 25 words or 40 words or a full page, companies should assign an employee to write a blog post that coincides with and summarizes the release.”
Blogs and Social Media/Press Releases are built for different, but overlapping audiences. If a company deems both audiences important, why not cater to them? Like we Online Marketers do: Segment, Target and Conquer. 😉
See you Tuesday Jeremy.
You’re right on the mark. There’s no reason to kill the press release given it’s an efficent way to widely distribute information. That said, there are many ways to improve the press release by adding tools such as Digg, del.icio.us, hyperlinks, and “real” quotes as opposed to the useless sound bytes PR firms and companies try to currently pass off.
Blogs as part of a corporate marketing/communications arsenal make sense as well. A lot of companies could learn about how to embrace blogging by looking at what Google does. My take, however, is many companies are – for whatever reason – way behind the blog curve despite the medium’s rapid ascension.
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