It’s no secret that the PR industry is one that is constantly evolving, where the rules of the game are shifting at a rapid pace – especially in digital. Many of the traditional tools and assets are endlessly in limbo and under scrutiny as to how relevant they may be in today’s modern world.
It can be said that one of the most relevant assets that’s often up for discussion is whether or not the press release is still rewarding when pitching to online journalists. While many believe it’s unnecessary, there are still a few who value its success in campaigns.
A press release’s purpose is to draw in a journalist’s interest and provide as much information on a product, current news or content as possible – providing the most important angles that would apply to their publication’s themes and audience base.
The Current Concern For Journalists
Now whether it’s their lack of time or the rush to make a deadline, it’s often debated that these long-winding, additional documents are a waste of valuable time. Journalists receive millions of emails within a day from companies, all in hopes of pitching their brands and content, which in turn means mountains of press releases that need to be read.
In my experience, a press release actually saves time and has been able to meet the journalist’s needs, as they have been able to directly copy and paste the release to use, if the tone and message suits their publication. In terms of larger publications, it often allows them to find their angle, as it has already been highlighted and addressed within the release, and therefore they have been able to get the story up and live much faster.
When I’ve removed the press release and just sent a simple pitch, there often tends to be more back and forth communication, usually via numerous confusing email chains, in order for the journalist to build a solid background and foundation for their possible angle. In my opinion, this is something that actually takes up more time than intended, as many factors might come into play, such as time difference or even just delayed responses on either end, sometimes resulting in missed messages and mails.
The Press Release in Action
But taking into consideration a more scientific approach, a recent study conducted by Wildfire Labs PR tested the importance of the press release in an outreach strategy. The research was inspired by Forbes’ July 2016 statement in which they declared the press release to be ”dead” and useless to a marketing strategy and approach. Wildfire Labs PR investigated whether certain elements, mentioned within the press release, were used in the coverage – some of which included key messaging, direct quotes, copy, and links.
During the investigation they sent and reviewed the coverage achieved from 100 distributed press releases to five key technology sectors, to indicate how journalists were or were not using these documents.
The study found that 98% of the coverage drew attention to the main message highlighted within the release; 82% used the direct quote and 46% included a link back to the original content or company’s website.
With figures like these, it’s difficult to argue against the relevance of the press release. These clearly indicate that many journalists still value the insight they offer.
Possible Solutions Moving Forward
Obviously this may vary from journalist to journalist, especially within different niches and preferences, but I do think the press release is still very much alive and kicking. I think it would be more valuable to focus on how to present the information within the release, as well as looking at the actual email pitch itself.
For example, when drafting a press release, it’s always beneficial to flesh out the angles and niches before. This way you should draft various versions of the release so that when outreaching, you are providing the most relevant facts to the best-matched parties, allowing them to have every pertinent element on hand.
Another aspect you can look into is creating an email pitch, which provides some insights into what they can expect from the press release, allowing journalists to briefly see if this might be a possible fit for their publication’s readers.
When writing this email pitch to journalists, I recommend using the most important elements from your press release, such as bullet points, in order to spark an interest and creating a need to continue on reading further down in the release.
To say that the press release is dead is a little dramatic, and it would be more accurate to position the press release as a tool that urgently needs some updating. Whichever route benefits you more – having various release versions or including a short email pitch summary – it’s important to keep both elements short and to the point, as well as relevant to the journalist at hand.
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Robin L. Newnham
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