The Press Release is Not Dead: It’s Reincarnated

By on Tuesday, September 6, 2011

While plenty of public relations strategists have tolled the death knell for the press release in today’s fast-paced media environment, the news release has not died. It’s been reincarnated through social media streams and re-purposed content on blogs and websites as a conveyor of not just information for the press – but also news for a wide range of key publics and audiences.

The press release is part of an integrated PR strategy that includes social media. Organizations today are information broadcasters, commanding their own television channels (YouTube), information freeway stopovers (websites), mega broadcasting systems (Twitter), billboards (FlickR) and community forums (Facebook). All of these channels provide a home, potentially, for re-purposed news release content slanted to the needs of a particular audience.

Copy still must be tailored for audiences and forums. Should you smack the same identical news release copy up in all these forums? No. But you can write a tweet using a compelling quote or statistic from the release to encourage readers and get attention. You can post a question raised by the news release on your Facebook page and invite users to comment. You can share a photo that’s relevant on FlickR and post a linkback. You can post a video that expounds even more details about your nonprofit organization’s position, program, or activity highlighted in the news release. The news release can birth all of these creative forms, and keep you on message too.
News releases can force nonprofits to improve how they talk about themselves. Rather than being the raft of bad verbiage on a pile of PR flotsam, a good news release is well-written and conveys a coherent story idea. It’s also newsworthy enough to not make an embarrassing entry on a nonprofit’s home page news stream. The press release format still helps us keep news concise and short.

Let’s face it – nonprofits are not known for their brevity or rappier wit when it comes to talking about themselves. While Twitter might force us all to sum up a story in 140 characters or less, a well-written press release also forces organizations to package information in a way that sums up key points, collates disparate information on a topic into one story location and gets to the heart of the matter quickly.

Press release writing and distribution must be savvy. Today’s press releases are typically distributed electronically and online. The AP Style Guide that serves as the manual of style for all press releases (you should own one if you write press releases) has been updated to use current terminology. The old days of printing out press releases on formal letterhead and mailing them out are long gone (thank goodness). But now the title for the press release and the first paragraph are even MORE important than ever.

If you think you are on information overload – think again. Journalists today are drowning in press releases.
We know that journalists opening emailed press releases will typically not go further than the first sentence, and we’re lucky if they make it thru the first paragraph on a press release before hitting delete. It’s also important to send your news release to the RIGHT reporter who covers the area your release is about, not to spam every email account on the newspaper contact us page.

The mass-scale and daily bombardment of journalists with an avalanche of news releases is also why you need to re-purpose your news release content into other forms, so you are stimulating conversation about the topic in other forums.

Everyone wants to know what you think.

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