As communication tools go, there’s nothing more unassuming than the humble press release. Even some PR professionals seem to apologise for them. They call them ‘news releases’ instead, writes Carol Dundas.
That’s got to be presumptuous. Let an editor decide what’s news. A good PR firm simply serves up a set of facts. The journalists take it from there.
A press release needs no apology. If it’s well researched, well written, well timed and well presented, it will do a good, solid communications job for the PR firm and the firm’s clients.
Indeed, in today’s social media-besotted news environment, the humble press release could take on a new lease of life. And I don’t mean by morphing into the video news release or some other new technology format.
The good old press release has what it takes to achieve much higher status as a source of succinct and pertinent information.
Years ago, journalists had a well-defined ‘beat’; crime, mining, politics, business, whatever.
They got out there to develop and meet contacts and run down a good story. Now, they not only do the face-to-face work, they also have to follow a growing list of social media sites to see what excites the interest of Joe and Jill Sixpack.
They must check what’s trending on Twitter and follow this and that blogger who may be covering some aspect of their beat. They may become bloggers themselves.
The social media deluge has some good points, but how do you find them?
There is so much blather out there you can surf for hours without coming across anything that is faintly illuminating or vague relevant (or even properly spelled).
How do you cut through the clutter?
That’s where the press release comes in.
A press release has no hope of publication without an eye-catching headline and a snappy intro that contains an angle with built-in appeal for a seasoned copy-taster.
Hard facts predominate. Flabby adjectives don’t get a look in.
In other words, a quality release is designed to cut the clutter.
It presents facts pertinent to a news organisation’s readership, listenership or viewership. Facts are assembled in descending order of importance: biggies at the top, supporting information at the bottom.
Context is provided by a quote or two from an authoritative source at the client company.
The information is short, sharp and angled for maximum impact.
This assumes the release is properly written and the PR pros have schooled their clients to provide useful information rather than an obvious product punt.
The key, then, is quality.
The press release will stay humble and under-rated if it is pumped out aimlessly by those ill equipped to grab the opportunity created by the social media landslide.
But if quality is good, the press release will come into its own … because the bigger the social media avalanche, the greater the impact of pithy, snappy copy from a trusted source.
Carol Dundas APR is the owner of Clear Distinction Communication
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to email@example.com.