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.
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.