The editor of a particular section of a national newspaper posted a Tweet recently declaring the press release dead and that she’d much rather PR people phone her.
I like and respect this particular journalist very much. She has always – with me anyway – been extremely polite, and she pulls together a very fine section week in, week out – no mean feat. I do however, have to take issue.
If you’ve ever tried calling a journalist (especially on a national) to pitch an idea, you’ll know that – unless you are on exceptionally familiar terms – you’ll be met with one of two responses.
The first, if you’re lucky, goes something like “that might be interesting, can you send me a press release”. You can see where I’m going with this! The second – and you fellow PR folk have been there – can verge on a level of rudeness you thought no longer existed.
Now, I’m not one of those luddites (honestly!) who believes the way we produced press releases in the “good old days” (sorry!) are how we should be producing them in 2018. Of course we shouldn’t – we need to accept the media landscape has shifted in a way we haven’t seen for decades.
Local papers are (sadly) dying, while many nationals continue to struggle, shedding readers and haemorrhaging money. And then there is the plethora of websites and the rise of the blogger, although many of these bear absolutely no relation to the noble and respected craft of journalism as it was and, indeed, still is practiced by some.
As someone who is both poacher and gamekeeper, I’m in a fortunate position of being able to see both sides. As a PR, I try to get quality coverage for a client and build mutually advantageous relationships between said client and the media. And, as a freelance writer and editor, I pitch ideas and have ideas pitched to me.
The days of issuing a press release to a whole media list indiscriminately are gone. It’s simply bad form and displays a lack of professionalism and knowledge to send the social affairs editor of The Times (no, not aforementioned journalist!) a missive about a woman who makes bicycles out of left-over KFC boxes from her garden shed in Bridlington. Believe me, it happens – and more frequently than you’d imagine.
Quite often the best route is most definitely to specifically target a publication or journalist with a carefully researched, well presented pitch. However, I believe the press release still has a place and I say that for three reasons.
Firstly, it helps the PR “craft” their story or it should if they’ve been well trained, and if they understand how journalists actually work.
This raises the need, I suspect neglected in the day and age of Twitter, to actually read and truly get to know and understand the papers, magazines, websites and bloggers to whom you’re pitching your company, business, product or service.
Clarifying the story in your own mind is also invaluable in helping you to then write approaches to specific journalists. I suspect – and here I’m prepared to sound like aforesaid luddite – there a lot of young (and some not so young) PR people who simply don’t know (or have never been taught) how to write a good press release.
Secondly, and as I said earlier, even if you’re carefully targeting a story to your meticulously researched journalist or select media list, there is every chance at least one of the people to whom you’re speaking will say “I’m busy. Have you got a press release you could send?”
Finally, in this age of (good) self-generated content, news releases and press information/press packs can play a role in enhancing a website, populating it with copy that is not only relevant to a number of audiences but can also play a role in making the site more effective when it comes to search engine optimisation and more.
As with so many things in today’s world, there can be a tendency amongst some to want to consign anytime deemed “old” to the bin in favour of anything “new”, regardless of its evaluation. worth or effectiveness.
So, the press release is most certainly not dead. It does, however, need to be adapted to today’s media and to ensure it remains effective in informing, influencing and making the life of a journalist easier.
Oh, wait a minute. isn’t that what many of us have been doing for years?!