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Are press releases a thing of the past?

This is a question more and more people are asking me. What should we be looking at in this age of instant news and social media communication? Will tweets be the way to go?
Let's take a step backwards. Up to a few years ago there was only one way to reach the media for disseminating news - through the ubiquitous release, either faxed (do you remember those?) or emailed. This often came (and still comes) in anything from a concise one pager to a four page waffle.

One thing hasn't changed - no editor or journalist has time or wants to read more than a few sentences to decide whether there's a story here or not. But how should they receive these few sentences is the issue.

How do you read today? On your iPad, laptop or phone? When you go through the tons of emails do you automatically delete the obvious releases, dismissing them as a waste of time before you even open them?

So what are the options to spread the word about a brand?
  • A short description with a link to a video giving information - still using the five W's but including soundbites for use in a story. This can be highly effective or seen as too much bother for an editor.
  • The social media release - especially if produced by someone who really understands SEO (search engine optimisation). Releases need to be search engine friendly.
  • The blog. This can be particularly effective if you're targeting a specific market, for instance luxury travel, teen, high end fashion and motoring. Naturally the style of writing will have to be sharp and concise - not just a different way of writing a release...
  • Twitter. A good tweeter who can whip up major interest is a must have in any communications company today. The idea isn't to give all the info in a Tweet which would be impossible - but to generate interest and send the reader to a website or link.
  • SMS - although to most journalists this could be a huge irritation, given the amount of rubbish we already get from unwanted ads.
  • Links to podcasts, which could in fact take the place of entire launches...
What makes today's communication exciting is the ability for readers to instantly share content they 'like' with thousands of personal connections. Today's news consumers are everywhere - Google, Facebook, Twitter and today there are literally unlimited numbers of portals and websites wanting new content in real time.

Press release content is blogged about, posted to Facebook with headlines tweeted, retweeted and discussed. BUT one thing doesn't change - the need for short, concise to the point releases that inform. The biggest change will be dictated by a mix of what consumers want and what technology allows.

So is the release dead? No, I don't think so - it's up to the agencies to make sure they're keeping up with the best methods for their clients.

About Marion Scher

Marion Scher ( is an award-winning journalist, lecturer, media trainer and consultant with 25 years' experience in the industry. For more of her writing, go to her Bizcommunity profile or to Twitter @marionscher.