Broken Record Time: Bagging on Press Releases

Okay, so over the weekend Brian Solis pings me with his post on the latest kerfuffle on the press release, in particular the social media release.

Ugh, sorry, just got back from throwing up.

This all started over Third Thursday and the social media release. First, let me disclose that I am not a fan of the social media release because I think it's a band-aid for the bigger problem: most junior PR people cannot write. Well, most high school and college graduates cannot write.

Then I read Robert Scoble's response that the social media release should just be replaced with, oh, a demo or a blog.


What people don't get - especially non-PR people - is that, oh, the majority of PR is done at the local level, where people don't care about blogs or RSS. The local level is done with a press release - sometimes sent over the wire, often not sent over the wire - and done with one-on-one contact. Oh, wait, what about entertainment PR, where a lot of information is disseminated over the wire and through relationships.

The press release isn't broken. PR people nowadays just can't write for shit. Hell, some of the PR bloggers can't write for shit, but at least by blogging, they should be getting better at writing (maybe not grammar and punctuation, but at least concise writing).

And, while, yes, blogs and social media are changing how PR is done, there is so much that is not changing because of social media, like SEC guidelines (as noted by Scoble) but it is not because society does not need a press release.

Now for a little snarkiness: this weekend, there were a lot of stories about Obama, H. Clinton and Edwards and how all three are using the Internet to get the word out, and to get people interested. What if Podtech had sent out a press release about Scoble being on the road with Edwards? Is it possible that government reporters would have included that little nugget if they had received a press release about it, and kept it on file - or, at the least, looked at the Scobleshow episodes and remember them during this weekend's stories? That could have been done with ... a press release. And, don't get me started on what a targeted press release distribution could have done for the Bloghaus.

No, I'm not picking on Scoble - heck, need to call him later for a pitch - but I am using him as a point. Press releases - social or regular - have a use, but it is just not as big in the tech arena. But, damn, they are still needed for more than just this small arena, but for overall media.

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  1. Jeremy, thanks for calling it as it is. Honestly, most things are a bandaid for the deeper issues in PR. The social media release really doesn't fix anything. It's still possible to take the hrelease format and fill it with bullshit, which doesn't help the cause. It all starts with focus and relevance - the rest is just distribution technology.

  2. Excellent.

    Perhaps the best point, that most PR is local, is the one that their myopic anecdotal observations always miss. Releases are quite often, if not most often, intended to inform - not to persuade.

  3. Jeremy,

    Thanks for the sanity.


    - Amanda

  4. You are completely right about this. I think there are some interesting things happening with the SMR, but ultimately, the press release isn't going anywhere, nor should it. There's a time and a place for it, and there will be until we master distribution via telepathy.

  5. Your point is well taken, but I think traditional press releases are being sent out over the news wires, and perhaps what we need is a sister release being sent out over the blog wires.

  6. Well, not sure about that Jim. What's wrong with outreach and talking to bloggers? They don't need a full press release, just a link to one.

  7. Great post and dead on correct. So much geeks have to learn.

  8. Jeremy, the evolution of media, and more poignantly, how our society currently communicates...calls for BOTH forms of releases to continue. PRs will always remain important, since there will always be an audience which receives its news in that manner. As well, we need to recognize that there is an entirely new audience whom is only willing to absorb info only through blogs, RSS. The two must exist in harmony, if we want to please the masses and move with the times.

  9. Linda, exactly. But there are people calling for the baby to be thrown out with the bath water.

    My point is that too many new media companies forget about traditional PR, to their own detriment. I can list all of them out for you, one-on-one, next time we see each other.

  10. Again, thanks for the wisdom and I can't agree more. Unfortunatley (or fortunately depending upon your perspective) there are a lot of markets (like mine) where RSS and blogs are terms from some Orson Scott Card novel to most folks. In my experience, even recently and away from NYC and LA (where most of the world lives by the way), a well-written press release gets me on the to-do list of editors in places I doubt will answer the phone.

    I agree that seamless integration of all the options is best. And knowing that your targets don't know RSS from REO Speedwagon helps, too.

  11. It all comes back to creativity, craftsmanship and relationship building. That's why Scoble's blog is such an effective communications device.

    And that's why communications campaigns can't be auto-formatted by general assumptions. You have to figure out what story makes your organization stand out for the right reasons, and how you can reach the right people with that story.

    The right people might be the frontline staff, some local editors, some bloggers, your customers' customers, or a combination. Assigning a solution to how you will get the story across before you figure out what you really need to achieve is a good way to miss your mark.

  12. you said "kerfuffle"

  13. What's wrong with kerfuffle??

  14. nothing wrong with it at all! It's a cool word. Sometimes it's just cool to say some words out loud.
    Kerfuffle. Pudding. Laconic.

    Carry on.

  15. I am currently a PR student getting ready to graduate, and I have learned that blogging is an important part of PR. I do not think that it needs to replace the social media release, but it is a great way to communicate information. It is good to incorporate and adjust to new developments in technology and make them a part of PR. Blogging has just created a new way to reach out to people and communicater with them. It is not always going to be the best thing, but it can't hurt. Some people only want to use what is new and throw away what is "old". Some people want to use the old fashioned way. We should learn how to use it all.

  16. That's my point Justin. Go back over the close to 4 years of posts on this blog, and you see I call for a balanced approach.

    Unfortunately, too many so-called experts are incapable of seeing the true mix.

  17. Jeremy is the voice of reason.

    I've asked plenty of times of any backers to show me a journalist who cares about the Social Media Press Release - silence in return.

    Now if Todd Defren and Todd Van Hoosear can build us a social media pitch widget, I'll say the time that Brian, Chris Heuer and others spend on this lame topic might be worth taking away from billable client hours.

  18. I'm only a few weeks in to my blogging career and already have seen several posts about the controversy over the social media press release versus the written press release. I can't imagine that the emergence of social media could completely wipe away any and all use of written press releases. Used in a small market, the written press release would be more effective than a social media press release. Do you think that the idea that social media releases will cancel out written press releases is due to a dying desire and/or ability to write well in the PR community?

  19. Katherine, the press release itself will never die. It will evolve, yes, but it is not because of the poor quality of writing.

    It will be in spite of it.


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