Is the press release really dead?

Two weeks ago, Alex Aiken, the executive director of Government comms announced the death of the press release. The debate has been fierce. So are press releases just another form of interruptive communications or is there actual mileage in them? 

At Stone Junction the consensus is that press releases are a very good medium to promote technical, IT and engineering clients to the trade media. And the thing is they actually work, irrespective of your industry sector.

However, being creative and making sure your press releases are as informative as possible gives them the more chances of getting picked up. Techniques such as rapid response releases are a good way of news jacking for instance.

One of the reasons PR consultants hastily add a handful of press releases to new campaign plans is simply because we feel obliged to. There is an expectation from all non-communication audiences, including prospective clients, that any sound campaign should contain at least a few of these stories.

But this is not the sole reason why PR campaigns include press releases. They are the main vehicle in broadcasting news and communicating with the media, before applying any other tactics; before even logging in to any social media accounts.

Because press releases are often, issued to a large group of journalist contacts, critics such as Aiken have labelled them impersonal and damaging to journalist relationships. Even though a press release may not find a home in every media outlet it is issued to there's a good chance it will appear in about 10% of them!

But even if the journalist decided against publishing your news in their next edition sending out press releases still serves a very important function. Making sure soundbites about your company reach editor's eyes and ears helps build reputation and increases awareness about your business.

A good point made by critics of press releases is that, when done badly, they can break the most important rule of news - timeliness. If something newsworthy happened in your client's backyard, by the time the copy is drafted, proofread and signed off by the client, it’s quite possible that weeks have already passed.

In addition, if the press release you have in mind is a news-jacking type story responding to a current event, your window of opportunity is only a couple of days long. If writing and approving the copy takes weeks or months then it will no longer be relevant to the media and thus journalists will think it’s untimely.

Even with these issues in mind, the press release is still very much alive. We see the positive impact of issuing news stories to the media every day. Press releases help build an audience and even a tribe of fan journalists that welcome news from your company.

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Oana Baetica - Technical PR consultant

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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