There’s a lot of talk about whether press releases have had their day. Is it worth spending any time or resource creating them, when a well-crafted 140 characters on social media can convey a message to a wider audience at a fraction of the price?
It’s an argument that has some validity. The last decade has seen the way that we consume information mutate beyond recognition. Messages can be circulated quickly and directly to relevant audiences without all that tricky wining and dining of journalists that people used to have to suffer. People increasingly expect pithy, no nonsense messages delivered instantly and with wit.
Try defying gravitas
In reality, these arguments miss two important points: 140 characters is very restrictive and press releases serve a specific function.
You need to have something for people that want more information. A detailed product description is great, a case study, maybe a quote from a client or partner, all help lead people through the process of thinking about whether they want to engage with you and your company.
But these are tools for people that you are trying to entice into a sales process.
A press release is primarily aimed at journalists, and is intended to give them enough information without necessarily bogging them down in the details of the product or the industry it serves. It is intended to let the journalist or blogger quickly decide whether to do one of three things:
- Ignore your story because it’s not suitable for their audience
- Issue a short version of your story which provides your company with independent coverage
- Get in touch with your company to get further information about your story and perhaps write a longer piece
What a press release should do is make it easy for people with varying levels of understanding about your industry or company to make those decisions at a glance.
To do that, you have to strip the information down to its bare bones. Don’t describe your product as a solution, don’t describe your company as the most innovative, market-leading, biggest or bestest. The person reading the press release should be able to make up their own minds about your company and its product, and if you make it flowery, it is more likely to get dismissed.
Horses for courses
A press release doesn’t solve everything. Nor does a Tweet, an update on LinkedIn, a product sheet or a glossy 5,000 word report. They all serve a purpose for different audiences and should be part of an overall communications strategy.
If you’ve done the work of pulling the information together and understanding it, creating a press release should take five minutes, but done right it can get you significant third party exposure. The world of communications has changed massively, but getting exposure in a variety of ways is as important as it ever was.
Magnus Allan is a freelance communications consultant who has worked across a variety of industries, learning a lot about using different tools for different tasks in the process. He’d like a new nutcracker for next Christmas.
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