Long live the press release?

Just over a year ago in October 2013, the executive director of government communications, Alex Aiken, declared that the press release was dead, saying that it should be replaced with tweets, infographics and other more “immediate” methods of communication.
His statement was re-iterated by the Public Relations Society of America in May this year, who declared much the same thing.
So are press releases still a valid way of disseminating news, or should they be consigned to history as an antiquated business tool?
The world may have changed, but our experience here at Spotlight is that the humble press release still has a valuable role to play in an organisation’s external communications mix.
The bottom line is that organisations still need to communicate news to journalists. What method this takes will vary according to their ability and needs. The most important thing is that press releases form part of a wider thought-out PR strategy alongside other methods of communication. And they are not an alternative for good journalist relationships.
Press releases have distinct advantages. Journalists still ask for them, they are still a recognised form of communication, they allow you to get over not only facts and figures but broader messages to the market and they can also be re-used as content for other business activities e.g. reports, presentations and client summaries.
So how can you write a press release that will stand out among the plethora of messages assaulting journalists’ senses?
“News” is the key word here. A press release should be short, to-the-point and above all, newsworthy. Avoid superlatives, self-congratulatory language and over-promotion – this is a press release not an advert. A compelling headline, a short first paragraph summarising the story, a clear statement on how your organisation’s product and service addresses a need or problem, hard facts and a pithy quote will all increase its chances of success.
So, is the press release dead? Well, let’s just say it’s not on the critical list just yet.

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