Are Press Releases Useless Now? It Depends.

Several weekends ago, I was watching the Netflix movie “War Machine” while baking a delicious red velvet cake. One scene in the film features Topher Grace’s character, a lobbyist turned U.S. Army civilian relations consultant, scoffing at the idea of sending out a press release, claiming that “nobody reads press releases anymore.”

It’s not just this movie. I see posts on networking platforms (LinkedIn, etc.) where professionals say “the press release is dead” all the time. I get it. Press releases seem outdated in the modern PR environment where social media is omnipresent. But let’s get one thing straight. The answer to whether press releases are still relevant involves two words I consider crucial in this line of work: it depends (hence the title of this blog post). Does drafting a press release align with your communications goals? Will it help you reach your target audience? Do you have a call to action? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, start drafting.

The press release is a good tool, and like any good tool, it can be MacGyvered into something that fits your strategy. Here are some ways press releases are still useful:

  1. Developing relationships with media: In graduate school, I was taught that the number one purpose for a press release was to make a news reporter’s job easier. As someone who used to be a reporter, I can tell you it’s true. In a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines and quotas to meet, reporters are hungry for content. They often depend on press releases to provide pertinent information needed to cover a particular story. If media relations is a key element in your communications strategy, a press release, with comprehensive information and relevant data, can help establish a great rapport with your targeted publications.
  2. They differ from social media: This builds a bit from the previous point in terms of media relations. There is a difference between what social media can do and what a press release can do. Press releases are developed specifically for journalists, designed to include facts and information so that they can quickly write their own story in any way they wish using said information.
  3. Increasing online visibility: If you are looking to increase the presence of your organization’s website among search engine results, then a press release could help with search engine optimization. This includes making sure your press release contains certain keywords used by reporters and online readers that make it easy to find. In the case of Google search results, the trick is making sure it passes Google’s complex search algorithm, which can identify poor quality content and punish your website for it. It may not be the most effective method for SEO, but it can still help immensely.

But please remember: press releases have a short shelf life, and journalists receive so many pitches and releases. To increase your release’s effectiveness, consider the following:

  1. Make sure the information is relevant to today’s news environment.
  2. Conciseness is key. Long, monotonous press releases will get discarded.
  3. Write it for the reporter, not for your organization.
  4. Don’t overdo it. Plenty of organizations believe the more press releases they issue, the more stories they’ll get. This is a huge myth!
  5. Include some multimedia, which can make your press releases more shareable.

The press release is here to stay. If you want help with your media relations,  you can contact us to learn more.