You don’t hear too much anymore about killing the press release. It was all the rage for the last two years to talk about the need to murder the poor helpless press release.
The gist of the argument is that in our digital media world – the press release is an archaic relic of the days when PR consultants mailed press releases to editors and reporters (and then went out to hunt mastodons with spears).
You can hit this link to read The Silicon Valley Watcher’s Tom Foremski’s rant of press releases called “Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!” (a headline which is grammatically incorrect, but that’s a post for another time).
Todd Defren at PR Squared supports the rather poorly named Social Media News Release – which is basically a list and a lot of links. There’s some pros to this approach, but the biggest negative is that it doesn’t allow companies to provide context to the news they are announcing.
A lot of complaints about press releases are legitimate. Press releases are guilty as charged for containing too much spin, featuring meaningless quotes from executives, and failing to deliver clarity because they are cobbled together by too many cooks in the kitchen. Companies also inject too much marketing and technology speak into press releases. The typical press release is written for the market department by the marketing department. They should be focused on the intended audience (After all, who really uses words like “leverage” and “paradigm” in real life?).
But supporters of killing the press release like Foremski make a big mistake. They assume that press releases are written for the press. But they aren’t anymore. In our digital world, press releases are written for everyone: media, analysts, customers, prospects, partners, and even employees. In the age of Google searches, press releases are just as likely to be part of the list of results as a news article. That’s also why Social Media Marketing Releases fail – because they don’t provide an opportunity for storytelling.
That’s why we shouldn’t be killing the press release just yet. Rather than kill it – let’s save it. Because of their wide reach – press releases are even more important today than they were 10 or even 20 years ago. We just need to return to the basics. Use the press release for its intended purpose: to share information.
Here are some ways that Racepoint Group counsels our clients on how to approach writing a press release:
· Focus on the News Value – The purpose of a press release is to broadcast a piece of news. So don’t bury the most important part of the release in paragraph five. The news needs to be front and center – the primary focal point.
· Short and Pithy Wins – Long press releases have little chance of being read – by anyone. The reason press releases turn out too long is because it is difficult to write short. But at a time when attention spans are shrinking – any release longer than two pages has little chance of holding a reader’s attention.
· Links Help – Make sure the release contains hyperlinks to Web content that will add another dimension to your news (links to podcasts, web content, news articles, videos, forums, and even other press releases). Some readers will want to understand the ins and outs of the technology or read a long history on the company. Rather than put that content in the release – put in a link instead. It helps with readers who want more detail and has the added bonus of driving traffic to a company’s web properties.
· Don’t Market Your News – Readers – even business readers – don’t want spin. They want straight forward information. So leave the marketing and technology jargon out of press releases.
· English As a First Language – When writing press releases think Ernest Hemingway rather than William Faulkner. That means using simple, declarative sentences written in an active voice. Leave the long, stream of consciousness work for Pulitzer Prize winning Southern novelists.