The press release is dead – long live the press release

I read an article on LinkedIn the other day (http://bit.ly/2GcELW8) that pretty much consigned the press release to the PR scrap heap – writing it off as an outdated mode of communication.

It said: “Today, progressive agencies and in-house teams push hard against the frequent call for a press release, making the case for alternative formats.”

Meanwhile, Alex Aiken, executive director of the Government Communication Service (GCS), also put the boot in, saying; “you should not start with three pages of A4, but a tweet, an infographic or a video. If you are writing more than 200 words on any subject, you’re probably in the wrong place.”

I have a one word response to this supposed demise of the press release, and it begins with “B” and ends in “ullshit”.

Before I get on to defending this standpoint, let me just kick those progressive agencies and Alex at GCS into touch.

Kick 1: Last year we lost out to a “progressive agency”, only to end up handling the business they won less than 12-months later after they were sacked for delivering nothing that even closely resembled worthwhile press coverage in return for their enormous monthly fee.

Kick 2: Alex at GCS seems to be toiling under the misapprehension that there’s any kind of challenge involved in securing press coverage for his “client” – who, let’s not forget, is the Government. Personally, I don’t think it’s too great a leap to suggest Alex and his team could carve Boris’ latest nonsensical announcement on the forehead of a dead Remainer and still be sitting back and watching the coverage roll in before tea time.

You see, what both the progressive agency and Alex Aiken examples fail to do is take into account two key aspects of PR work.

Firstly, the job is far more about the client and ensuring they are happy, than it is looking cool in front of peers and the target media.

Secondly, a huge amount of PR work involves B2B clients whose aim is to gain coverage in the kind of trade titles that Ian Hislop and Co are so fond of giggling at on Have I Got News for You.

And those of us working at the slightly less glamorous end of the industry know just how important the press release remains in delivering on both of these fronts; and I, for one, will do my damndest to ensure it never goes out of fashion.

Just remember – the press release provides:

  • The client with control over what they communicate externally, ensuring they are not just comfortable, but happy about what you’re saying to the press on their behalf
  • Any PR person worth their salt with the document they know will be the first thing a harried journalist asks for when they call / e-mail / Tweet / release a carrier pigeon in an attempt to sell-in a story
  • The harassed trade editor / local journalist with a story they only need to edit (as long as it’s well written) – sometimes even just top and tail – rather than try and write from the foundation up
  • And if that wasn’t enough, the humble old press release also provides the basis for content that can be used across websites, e-newsletters and multiple social media platforms.

Our job when putting together a press release is the same as it’s always been – to rein in the over-eager client; ensure the newsworthy elements of the story are to the fore; and, of course, to avoid any of the unique, world-altering superlatives that so incense journalists each and every time they appear on their screens.

If after reading this you feel I haven’t made a strong enough case for you to join me in shouting from the rooftops, “LONG LIVE THE PRESS RELEASE” then (to steal from my new BFF Alex Aiken) “you’re probably in the wrong place.”

Written by Daniel Kennedy, 26/01/2018