Where Next for the News Release

Thinkstock Single Image SetIf you go with the view that Ivy Lee created the first press release back in 1906, then the bread and butter of what public relations used to be best known for is more than 100 years old now.

In that time, we’ve seen the original idea behind the news release (or press release, depending on preferences) morph into many shapes and ideas. From the standard print release, to the search engine optimized release, to today’s social media news release, it’s evolved as needs have grown.

But apart from adding some nice flashy videos and blog links, or being able to rank a little higher in Google, how far has the news release really come? And is there still room in today’s instant feed market for something like the news release?

News is News is Instant

When most people think about a press or news release, they think product launch, or live event, or company change (personnel or otherwise). All well and good when that was how we got our news. But now, with the likes of Twitter and citizen journalism breaking news long before official channels, the game plan and audience has changed a little.

When we want our news, we no longer look hungrily to PRNewswire for information. We look at LinkedIn statuses; we look at Alltop business feeds; we look at BackType real-time search.

When we want business announcements, we await their Twitter update, or Facebook page change, or a post on the company’s blog (the good ones that do blog, obviously).

When we’re interested in a product launch, we look to the niche bloggers. We see what a company’s doing virally on YouTube.

Basically, we don’t have time to wait on an official news release when the online news reports have already broken the story a week earlier (something that Michael Arrington is a huge fan of, seemingly…).

So if we don’t really have time to wait for the news, where does that leave the news release?

Social Media Will Save Us

A lot of people are saying that social media is the answer to the news release’s future. Ever since Todd Defren debuted the social media press release template, companies have jumped onboard to make their own version.

Jason Kintzler, for example, launched PitchEngine, a social media newsroom where companies and brands could build a social news release for free and have it distributed for 30 days. Premium accounts kept the release live.

The problem is, though, while social media offers options like video, audio, RSS feeds and more, their reach is a lot less than the standard newswires. And because not everyone and their daughter is using social media (despite what the gurus might say), the size of the audience is immediately limited to the platform.

So, social media won’t save us. At least, not yet. So where does that leave the news release?

Ego and Respectability

The funny thing with a lot of news releases is that many of them are pretty irrelevant. A lot of companies issue news releases just to say they have one. I actually worked with a tech client who issued a news release to say they were installing a new HVAC system!

Egos of company CEO’s like to see their name in print, and will throw anything they can at the wires. Likewise HR departments, who like to see their name in print as a contact for the company. So maybe egos and the image of respectability will keep the news release happily ensconced in its current travels?

In all seriousness, I’m sure ego has less to do with news releases than actual news.

But that still leaves the question of where next for the news release. Does it slowly taper off until all news comes direct from companies on their own sites or blogs? With the announcement from Google that they intend to release financial news exclusively to their investors via the Google Investor Relations page, it may be that companies take the reins.

One thing is for sure. News as we knew it hasn’t been the same for a while now. The news release as we know it currently surely has a limited time-span left. The question is, what’s its replacement? And does there even need to be one?

Danny Brown advises business on smart marketing and social media and building brand loyalty through community. He helps small start-ups to Fortune 500 businesses.

Danny is also the founder of the 12for12k Challenge, a community-driven social media charity initiative to connect globally and help locally.

His blog is featured in the AdAge Power 150 list as well as the Technorati Top 100 Small Business Blogs, and won the Hive Award for Best Social Media Blog at this year’s South by Southwest festival.

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  • It might help if PR pros realized that news is no longer “announced.” Example: the phrase “For Immediate Release” is comically antiquated. News isn't released, it's spread — and the originators of the message must admit they have less control over it than ever before.

    Instead of laboring under the impression that press releases are still a gift to the information-starved media, let's reconsider what our information-overloaded media *actually* needs: relevance, context, causes, actions, connectivity.

    Give people that, and you won't have to worry about your press release going unreported.

  • Great points, Justin, and couldn't agree more on the “turning of the tables” view. Train times are announced, but is that news? Nope – and your point about spread versus announced is a great one.

    Cheers. 🙂

  • PRNewswire, Business Wire and Marketwire will not be happy about this post, but Danny makes several important points here. There is still room for a news release though (yes, I use news vs. press) because most of the ones I write and distribute are not necessarily for the press, but it's still company news. I do advice clients not to issue news releases for the sake of issuing news releases. It hurts more than helps especially with all the blogs out there, it can get dissected and ridiculed.

  • jeffespo

    The problem with news releases is that they have taken a place in the marketing tool kit. Aside from real news, companies put out fluffly filler releases for SEO love – which if done right – can be very valuable. While great from an ROI perspective, it does bastardize the craft, that the majority of this blog's readers collect a check from, to an extent.

    The one thing that we can control is making the content relevant for the reporter and or constituent who receive the release. The release for the most part has a longer tail and trust factor built into it than something tweeted out. The real question is how do we build the balance between relevancy and the big ROI bang with SEO?

  • The funny thing is, Marketwire and PRWeb do quite a good job of taking a standard release and socializing it. But I hear you 🙂

    That's a valid point about news being released just for news' sake – all it does is dilute, and then when the really good stuff comes out, no-one wants to read it as they've been put off by the previous irrelevance.

  • Yep, especially with services like Information-Online.com and PR 24-7. I think this is where editorial control from the wires needs t be a lot more effective (and I've seen the bigger wires just as guilty of this too).

    And at the end of the day, company blogs would be far better-suited for SEO benefits, as opposed to a crappy release which just puts the brand in a dull light. Something to keep in mind next time a CEO thinks it'd be great to have their sports day schedule on a newswire… 😉

  • Good point Justin, the issue isn't just making existing press releases “social” it's changing the mindset that providing the same pat info to everyone is going to generate interest. A blog post can give the same information and IMHO do it better. PR still has to find ways to reach out to individuals and create enough interest for them to write something deeper about the topic.

  • soulati

    News releases will remain viable because of the integration of marketing public relations blended with social media.

    We in PR take approved messaging, weave it into approved news releases against approved strategy and select the communications channels with which to release it.

    Pitching 1:1? Exclusive for a day? Social media touch points, investor wires and intranets, Cision distributions?

    There needs to be a start point for the message; a news release provides that very official opportunity. It's expected because we've trained journalists of all types to receive information in this capacity. And, it lends a professionalism, when done well.

  • But that's the key word phrase right there, Jayme – “when done well.”

    It's clear this isn't always the case, or there wouldn't be so many crap and irrelevant releases around. Then you have the professionals – PR, journos, newswire owners, etc – that encourage this type of “news” because they either make a buck or get print time.

    Pitching 1:1 can be done via a phone call, video call or face time if a relationship has been built.

    Exclusives are getting harder to attain thanks to leaks and the speed at which they spread.

    Social media touch points are all over the web – you just need to choose the ones that are right for your clients and take them there. A news release isn't needed for that.

    And Google is showing that you don't need news releases for investors when you have a velvet rope community to share that information.

    There's no doubt that a solid news release offers great information, awareness and more. But, like you say, it's “when done well.”

    And that could be the difference between the news release continuing to have relevance, or being sidelined by brand-specific outlets and shared information from there.

    Cheers for your thoughts 🙂

  • Agreed, Janet. Though that's like any business – standard info sharing will only get you so far before you want the fresh stuff. And that's where the news release needs to keep advancing.

  • Disclosure: I am the SEM and Social Media Specialist @Marketwire (news release distribution).

    First I just want to say, LOL @prdude. I love this post. Appreciate the thought though! The different perspectives on the news release (and social media release) along with the comments make me NOT want to hate it. Anything is game!

    Danny, really enjoyed the read. I want to give a big thanks to you for the props re: Marketwire. Kudos to the commenters and your response to each of them. Some very interesting points have been brought up.

    Google's situation is extremely unique. Yes, they chose to send the financial advisory through Marketwire to announce their intentions – http://bit.ly/aG1Orw, but they have the authority and the audience to post their earnings on their IR site. The majority of companies just do not have that authority like Google does. I believe eBay is another company in that unique situation. How can I or anyone for that matter say anything bad about Google's decision? More power to them.

    RE: the social media release. An SMR and “sharability” without the distribution and reach of a newswire can only go so far. However, a big kudos to bringing on people who now look at the SMR in a different light. It's now enabled clients to use an SMR as a complimentary tool to a traditional release.

    There are tons of news releases that may seem like filler material, but what's fluff to you may be important to others perhaps from a vertical market perspective. But, there's no denying the fact that some distribute releases just to be listed in Google. Whether it's short tail or long tail SEO, it still works. Like a couple people said before me, “if done well” can have incredible impact. Cisco comes to mind when their SMR- http://bit.ly/9ZUXYl got picked up by Mashable – http://bit.ly/bThqOz.

    Regards,
    Nick @shinng
    http://www.twitter.com/marketwire
    http://www.marketwireblog.com

  • Hey there Nick,

    Thanks for coming along and sharing your thoughts, really appreciated (especially given your role and company you work for).

    I agree – Google's position is extremely unique as far as content/news sharing and awareness goes. Being the #1 website has distinct advantages, after all.

    Yet at the same time, isn't the Google example the same reason that news is defined and dependent on brand as opposed to what “newsmakers” (PR, marketers, journos, etc) perceive to be the news that should be shared via a newswire release?

    Because of Google's size, you'd get information about anything they do within a heartbeat, on hundreds (if not thousands) of sites. Blogs, micro-blogs, RSS feeds – all would be lit up the minute something hit.

    Now take it to the extreme and look at the other end of the spectrum. A really small company, using a news release to share their latest product, or service, or promotion.

    Will a news release give a substantial enough amount of exposure to that company? Won't the front page exposure go to the companies that can afford the higher-priced packages, leaving the small companies (that need the exposure) dwindling at the end again?

    However, take that same small company and give them a Facebook ad. Or Promoted Tweet. Or a blog that's shared by Google Reader.

    The same news has (probably/possibly) gone to a wider audience than a news release would have taken them to, for almost the same (or fractionally higher) cost.

    Perhaps it's more a question of how should newswires tailor the services to the brands (size and financially) and really offer a competitive reason why the news release still offers the benefits it did 5-10 years ago?

    There's definitely still room for the news release, but I just feel that in its current format (traditional or social), it's less impacting.

    Cheers for your thoughts, fella, really appreciate it.

  • Patrick

    distribution, distribution, distribution. Content is king whether it's a press release or other. What matters is your business/communication objective and where it goes. Hungry outlets in your vertical will always share, retweet, post original content. I posit that that PR is as much about original content production as it is about crisis management, investor comms, etc. When you're the size of Google, all that matters is that you post your info in at least one place. Your followers will report. For smaller companies, it's all about where you post your news – in standard release format or other.

  • Danny, what a great topic and I agree with you on several points.

    I would like to add that as pr professionals we need to do better job of educating our clients and executives on the ever changing media landscape so that they understand why we would suggest that a release may not be the best way to go every time. If they have a better understanding of the way bloggers and other new media outlets and communities work and their impact on the business that will make a big difference.

    As an example, I recently had a discussion with a client who was really upset that their story was picked up by the online magazine and not included in the printed version. That's a perfect example a lack of understanding of what media and media coverage means today.

    I think the same holds true for the media release. It's our job to help our clients understand when a release is needed versus a verbal pitch and challenge their ideas about what type of information should be included that is most relevant instead of the standard boiler plate type info.

    Thanks for posting this!

  • But wouldn't that be the same for any business, Patrick? Originality stands you apart, whether that's PR, marketing or ice cream flavours. Content can be king, but if it's less just the same regurgitated buzzwords, then it doesn't matter how well-written, it'll disappear very fast.

    Cheers for stopping by and sharing your thoughts 🙂

  • Great point, Tonya – we're as much to blame at times as anyone else. After all, we're the “professionals” being paid to advise, and if we're advising a news release for a niche tech product when tech bloggers may be a better avenue, then we're not doing our jobs properly.

    Cheers!

  • Browe30

    One word (acronym) here: SEO. News releases don't serve the old purpose they used to because the old editor-as-gatekeeper model of media is dead.
    We don't send releases to media hoping for pickup as much as we send them out where they are posted directly for customers to read. Google and Yahoo alerts, e-newsletters, and other aggregators of all sorts funnel them to our audience. Done right, releases also serve as inbound links to your website from all these different locations – Google juice as we all know.
    Social media just gives you more channels. Of course the content has to be good. That has always been the case and will never change.
    All these stories about the death of the press release are misguided at best.

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  • Thing is, though, as Google continues to change the algorithm toward social relevance, even SEO is beginning to pale for news releases, given that company blogs and online news aggregator sites can offer better “link juice” than a search engine optimized release.

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