If 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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