Headlines declaring the demise of the press release have been floating around the PR community for several years. They make a shocking headline to be sure, but the question remains: are these gross exaggerations or is there some truth to it?
We've seen how several hot companies such as Twitter, not only survive, but thrive without ever issuing a press release. Then there are companies like Amazon and Coke that have captured a great deal of attention for the innovative new approaches they are taking to disseminate news.
Last fall, Amazon chose to skip issuing a press release when it unveiled the Kindle Fire and instead shared its launch news via a series of 14 tweets. Coke has been investing heavily in a new digital magazine, which it hopes will one day replace the need for press releases. Add to the mix Google's announcement from last fall, stating that press releases will no longer influence SEO, one starts to question if you should still be investing time and money into press releases at all. It's a question that Tier One gets from clients a lot, especially over the past year. And truthfully, it's a question that we step back and ask ourselves from time to time.
So what's our response?
You see, press releases shouldn't be viewed in such black and white terms. While a press release may make sense for one company, another company may be able to be just as successful with sharing its news using a completely different communications tool. So before you walk away from the press release cold turkey, or continue to invest your hard earned marketing dollars in developing them, here are some things to consider when determining if this traditional PR tool still makes sense for your company…today…and tomorrow:
What is the best way to tell your story? Is this a significant milestone for your company?
Back in the day, it was common to develop press releases for any type of news – big or small. But the beauty of the PR world we live in today, is we have so many more ways to share a story – whether it be a blog, a paid content piece, a byline or a personal email pitch to a reporter. We believe the press release is still a strong tool for significant company news that you'd like to communicate to a broad audience. But if your news is more of an update or a smaller milestone, you're likely able to make just as strong of an impact, and save money while you're at it, by leveraging your blog or firing off a tailored pitch to a reporter to tell your story.
Does your news include many facts that are important to keep straight?
One value of the press release is that it enables a company to deliver a consistent message that target audiences can quickly and simply forward on to others. Does your announcement have a simple straight-forward message, or are there components to the story that need to be explained in greater detail? Press releases are particularly helpful if you are delivering more complex news with facts that must be kept straight. Reporters appreciate having a go-to source to help them tell your story accurately.
Do your target audiences follow your current communication channels closely? Do you have a strong following?
We've all heard about companies that use their blog as the only primary distribution method of their company news. But typically, the companies that use this approach have developed a meaningful following on their blog, which includes members of the media. If your company blog is still up-and-coming and short on readers, the additional amplification of your news via a press release might be well worth it.
Is there value in this announcement being publicly archived? Do you hope people will discover it at a later date?
As you evaluate the best distribution method for your news, ask yourself if it is news that you'd like target audiences to be able to quickly find at a later date. One of the values of distributing a press release on a wire service is that it is publicly archived and can be found through Factiva and Google searches at a later date when people are doing research on your company.
Is your company publicly traded?
Publicly traded companies, by law, must provide investors access to material information at the same time. According to Regulation Fair Disclosure (Regulation FD), material information must be distributed in a manner that gets information out to the general public broadly and non-exclusively.
Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission, determined that Facebook and Twitter can be used to announce key information in compliance with Regulation FD so long as investors have been alerted about which social media will be used to disseminate such information. Learn more in our blog post on the SEC's social ruling.
So if you are a publicly traded company and have decided to use an alternative method than a press release to share material news, it is crucial that your investors have been fairly alerted about the news distribution methods you are using.
One final note
In thinking through the press release or no press release debate, you must remember that the press release has never and will never be successful in a vacuum. It's unrealistic to think that a reporter will be moved to cover your story simply by issuing a press release on the news wire. Successful announcements involve a mix of communication strategies that almost always include the personal involvement of reaching out to reporters to pitch them your news and explain why it's meaningful to their readership/viewership.
So when it comes to the press release, be sure you are thinking through the pros and cons of the tool and how it can help you achieve your goals so you can make the best decision for your company and not simply follow the crowd.