Are Press Releases an Obsolete Marketing Tool? The Truth About PR Writing
While a few days ago we were screaming out loud that content is dead, today we are coming up with a different question. Call it a thought-challenge one for you: is the press release dead? No, we are not trying to shock people into reading us. Of course, we do believe that press releases are still a valuable format. But there have been so many voices online screaming out loud that press releases are no longer valid forms of content marketing, that we feel the need to dissect the matter a bit.
Is the PR really dead?
The truth about press releases: they are not content marketing per se. They were always the most interesting part of any content strategy, in the sense that they did not really belong. And this is because a press release is more news oriented than any other content marketing form. They are at the crossroads of PR and newswire material.
The sad truth about this beautiful form of journalistic communication was that they were so wrongly used over the past years, having now reached a level of over-consumption that can only spiral downwards. In other words: content marketing has been killing the press release. Gradually, systematically, mercilessly.
How? The answer is very simple: just look at all those press releases written and distributed out there. How many of them actually have real news to share? How many are transmitting a real, time-sensitive piece of information? How many actually manage to inform the public? Very few of them, sadly.
The rest are PR stunts, made-up information created by companies just to put their names out there, pieces created for the sole reason of selling services and products. Stuffed with keywords and actually saying nothing new, they are pieces that scream: “hey, we are still out there, don’t forget about us, we still need more clients coming in, more conversion, more $$$, we need you to click on this link and go to our site.” Content marketers thought they can be such good vehicles for their clients’ websites that they managed to get the market over-saturated.
As a result, news agencies started to gradually lose interest into picking up those PR stunts and treating them as news. We are in 2016- the media landscape is dramatically changed. If once, news such as launches, new products or other company news drove enough media attention, the interest has been gradually fading. Yes, media outlets still care about your business, but are no longer interested in your company milestones, they want to read about your story. They don’t want to publish pieces that no one will read about your new service. They want to use your story to create a challenge with their readers. They want to tell stories that move the audience and motivate it to read.
How has the press release evolved?
Exactly 110 years ago, the first official PR was written. It came as a result of the famous Atlantic City train wreck and it was issues on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in a public relations effort to reach the journalistic community at the time and give its own version of the story, before the rumor mill started grinding. Fast forward to today: the PR is still used as a means of communicating news to the masses. But how much of the initial efficiency does this preserve today, in a world where social media and the internet have made news spreading and amplifying rumors so easy?
In truth, traditional public relations is at a crossroads. PR people are no longer supposed to distribute the news; they have to make sure they make it stick. While news is simple fact spreading, a story helps create an emotional connection.
How should we approach PR writing today?
Remember, as a content marketer, you cannot just tell any story either. You need to be able to present something that brings real value to the table, something that prompts more action from the reader. The first reader of a PR piece is a journalist, and they do get to see a lot of content every day. In order to pick their interest and make sure they will see value in it, you have to think of a news angle that will not just fade into the background. Write the release in a manner that will allow a journalist to grasp the story behind the news in a clear and quick manner. They will not be as interested in the when and what but rather in the why of the matter. Try to avoid industry related jargon or complicated expressions. Provide good access to valuable information and images, make sure your news is supported by a qualified spokesperson, ideally someone who has a good reputation online and can serve as an authority support figure for your release.
No, the PR is not dead. It is going through changes and, if done properly, it can still be a valid way of getting your company message out there.
Be clear and honest. Be open to change and make sure you always tap on the human side of your news. People’s backgrounds and personal stories are more valuable content today.
Write a press release that will help build trust around your consumer base and show credibility in your industry.
Need help putting a valuable PR out there? Iris Content has the right people for the job. Contact us today for a quote and get your story in motion.
Content Happiness Advisor
Annie has 18 years’ experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.
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