Press Releases: To Use or Not To Use?

“We need to issue a press release at least once a week to maintain high visibility,” said client A.

“Press release pick-up has zero value to my business,” said client B.

Sounds like a familiar (and contradictory) refrain, doesn’t it? Depending upon who you ask, the press release is either something that’s dead and buried in the field of PR or still has its place in the media relations landscape. This is largely because there is genuine debate across the industry as to whether or not press releases are still a viable tactic for generating media attention.

It’s a fair question, as companies large and small distribute thousands of press releases every year and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on them in the process. Many issue press releases simply out of habit or because it’s long been a staple in their PR tool box.

This has led to a high volume of releases issued every single day, and as a result has given rise to media skepticism as to whether or not there is any real news being shared. Likewise, the clients issuing them face an equal challenge of measuring their efficacy at garnering true awareness. After all, when was the last time a client patted you on the back for garnering press release pick-up on 350 websites? Distributing a deluge of press releases can also have a detrimental impact on your SEO, especially since Google changed its search algorithm after it saw brands were using releases as an SEO marketing tool.

So, does this mean the press release is dead? Not necessarily. The first step in evaluating whether or not a press release should or shouldn’t be used is not to discuss press releases at all. Wait… what?

That’s right: the key to remember is that press releases are tactical elements of a PR program and should be driven by your program objectives and strategy. Therefore, put the press release down, take a giant step back, and define your overall PR campaign/brand objectives first. Then develop a strategy you think will help you achieve those objectives. Crazy as it may be, good old fashioned PR strategy sometimes works. Press releases and other media relations tactics should be the last element to consider.

If you decide to use a press release as a tactical component of your plan, consider whether or not you have real news to share and if a release is warranted. A tailored, compelling pitch or media advisory will often more than suffice, or even a 1:1 with a journalist and your spokesperson. If you ultimately decide a press release is warranted though, don’t forget the basics to make it as compelling as possible: what’s in it for the journalist’s audience?  Does it align with a trend? Lastly – think about ways in which you can inject creativity into the press release process. For example, rather than quoting a company executive in your release, perhaps consider doing a Periscope of the executive live-streaming the press release.

With a little effort, ingenuity and good old fashioned news to share, press releases can still be effective in generating media attention. Just don’t call them a strategy.

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