Long live the release
Twitter has never issued a news release. Amazon introduced the Kindle through a series of tweets. Google announced Alphabet via a blog post from Larry Page.
It’s not just the tech companies: Canada — yep, the country — sent out its last traditional news release on Dec. 31, 2013. Now, it offers social media releases instead.
Is the press release dead? Or does it just need a makeover?
1906: The release is born.
When Ivy Lee, a former New York Times reporter, issued the first release in 1906, The New York Times ran it in its entirety two days later.
Those days are over.
But while today’s communications and media would be virtually unrecognizable to Ivy Lee, today’s release would not. We’ve been cranking out the same old Ws, in the same old format, for more than 100 years.
Isn’t it time for the wake?
Cue the bagpipes: The release is dead.
Hey! Ivy Lee died on Nov. 9, 1934. Isn’t it time we buried the release, too? After all, releases:
1. Don’t rivet reporters. Nearly half of the editors and reporters a surveyed by Greentarget in 2014 received 50 or more releases. They spent less than a minute with each. Sometimes way less: “You’ve got three seconds to get my attention,” one journalist told Greentarget.
2. Aren’t great at gaining coverage. More than half of all traditional press releases distributed never get covered, according to PR Newswire’s own research. So where do stories come from?
- 68% of journalists surveyed by Greentarget get their story ideas from sources.
- 41% get ideas from other news outlets.
- Just 34% get them from releases.
3. Are often irrelevant. The biggest pet peeves journalists expressed in the Greentarget research are releases that don’t pertain to their beats or that aren’t relevant to the audiences they serve.
“I recently got a message from a reporter working at a small local paper who received 80 press releases in one day — of which only two were relevant to the information his paper covers,” writes digital communications strategist Jeremy Porter.
And yet, the releases just keep flooding in: Wire services like PR Newswire and BusinessWire distribute an estimated 3,000 releases each day. And those numbers are increasing, according to PR Newswire.
Don’t pull the plug yet: Long live the release.
1. Journalists rely on releases. 70% of respondents surveyed in the 2014 Business Wire Media Survey said their jobs would be harder without press releases. And 88% in the Greentarget study said they found releases at least somewhat valuable.
These journalists use releases for reference, checking spelling, titles and other facts. And, on rare occasions — such as when they’re on deadline and can’t reach a source — they’ll even turn to releases for quotes. (And some of them, we know from experience, simply edit the release — or don’t — and use it as the story.)
2. Journalists do find story ideas in releases. One in three use releases for story ideas, according to the Greentarget study. That makes it the third source of story ideas — not the top — but a source nonetheless.
3. Journalists need help. Half of the journalists in the ISEBOX study produce at least five articles a week. One in five produce more than 11 articles a week. Releases — especially those with multimedia components — make life easier for journalists on deadline.
Plus, the right release can help you reach clients and customers directly, contribute to the social conversation and draw more visitors to your site.
Give that 109-year-old release a makeover.
So what’s the answer?
Remake the release. Write releases that:
- Are relevant and valuable to the journalist and his readers. Focus on “news you can use to live your life better” and tipsheets and other value-added story angles.
- Tell a story instead of just reporting facts. The traditional news release format, with its terse hierarchical blurtation of facts, is so tedious and dry, it makes folks’ eyes glaze over.
- Make it easy to read and use. Subheads, bullets and other display approaches make details easier for the reporter to read. Multimedia elements make the release easier to use.
How can you make over your next release?
Think Like a Reporter
Some 55 percent to 97 percent of all releases sent to media outlets are never used, according to Dennis L. Wilcox and Lawrence W. Nolte, authors of the standard textbook on the topic, Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques.
So how can you create PR pieces that are among the 3 percent to 45 percent of those that actually get the word out?
In NOT Your Father’s News Release — our two-day PR-writing workshop in New York on Dec. 9-10 — you’ll learn how to think like a reporter to develop story angles that readers want to read (and that journalists and bloggers want to run). Specifically, you’ll learn how to:
- Fill in the blanks to a great benefits lead: You’ll leave with formulas and recipes for crafting leads that sell the story and stand out from the crowd
- Move from event to impact: Learn simple steps for transforming your event, speech or meeting coverage into news readers can use to live their lives better
- Create two types of stories media outlets want more of (and avoid one they wish they’d never see again!)
- Go beyond “new and improved” to information readers really want to know about your product
- Steal secrets from Silver Anvil winners: What do nationally award-winning PR writers do that you don’t do?
Browse all upcoming Master Classes.
Would you like to hold an in-house NOT Your Father’s News Release workshop? Contact Ann directly.