Is The News Release REALLY Dead… Or Just Playing Possum?
The debate about whether the traditional news release still serves a purpose is not new. The rise of social media, and the immediacy in which news is distributed, has caused many PR professionals and companies to re-evaluate their use of traditional news releases.
The news release is most certainly NOT dead, but how and when it is used has changed.
One of the most influential drivers of that change is social media outlets, which are becoming legitimate news distribution platforms. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year approved the use of social media for corporate disclosures, and Bloomberg began integrating Twitter feeds into its terminals for city traders.
The Canadian government recently discontinued the use of news releases in favor of a more digital-friendly product. An easy-to-digest format has replaced text-heavy news releases and content is integrated with social media channels.
News consumption habits have changed as information is released instantaneously and across multiple platforms. Journalists scan content and decide in just a few seconds whether to report information provided in a news release or to delete it.
So how do you know when to use a traditional news release, and when to skip it in favor of a different format? And what are the benefits of a traditional news release versus other delivery methods?
Remember that news releases should be used to deliver news. Hard news. Time-crunched journalists, editors and producers must make instantaneous decisions about allocating their now-reduced time and resources to a story. They can’t afford to waste time reviewing irrelevant content formatted as a news release that doesn’t serve a need for their audiences.
A special note: news releases are required in some circumstances, particularly for public companies. Companies use news releases to publish market-sensitive information for regulatory announcements, such as quarterly earnings reports. And journalists still relate to a news item from a company as news when it appears in the proper format, in Associated Press style. If you opt to dress up your news in a prettier format, the harried reporter might mistake the costumed-content as a promotional piece instead of the serious, timely, impactful news announcement it really is.
What Is The Value Of A News Release?
- The news release reaches more than just reporters. It’s also become a valuable tool to reach customers, prospects and other stakeholders as well as the general public. Your audiences feel privileged when they receive your news release directly or view on the Internet because it signifies importance where an html e-mailer just looks like more company fodder or evergreen newsletter content.
- Further, the process of writing a news release helps businesses hone their messages and focus on newsworthy story development. This helps companies shape the conversations they have with their audiences, both externally and internally, and improves the value of the content being delivered. Its life extends beyond announcement day.
- A news release is a highly effective way to publish news as wire services carry the announcement to a broad audience.
- For Search Engine Optimization (SEO), press releases increase the content that search engines reward as their algorithms select websites with timely, relevant content to push to page one search results.
How To Effectively Use A News Release:
First, make sure news releases are part of an overall strategy to build and maintain relationships with journalists. If what you want to say really isn’t newsworthy enough to compete with other news, but you still want your audiences to know it, publish it to your website and email it in it’s “I’m important news format” directly to your audiences’ inboxes. Save the more impactful news for wire distribution since those require expense and must show a return on your use of budget.
- Jettison the lengthy news release and jargon. Replace it with short, accurate and, most important, interesting content.
- Include facts, dates and properly attributed quotes that actually can be used. Banish self-serving quotes that are all about you or your company and make them relevant to the reader. Even better, strive to find your spokesperson’s voice and write a quote that sounds like he or she really just said it. Hardly anyone really says, “We’re excited about….” So, unless that’s really the sentiment to express, avoid that lazy cliché quote starter, and use your rich vocabulary and quick wit to craft the quote that drives an audience into action or puts a perspective on an issue that makes a reporter want to use your spokesperson as a source.
- Convey data that is clear about what the news is and the impact on the audience.
- Include photos, graphics, renderings, video and other visual elements you may have available to help tell you story. Media are required to produce highly visual content. Your great words-only story won’t make the cut anymore. Hyperlink to visuals and videos inside the body of the release so you can compete for the news hole.
- Include links to social media, websites, blogs, etc. so your news release will also be a diving board for the audience to jump into and swim around in your robust company content that isn’t news, but is rich and useful nonetheless.
- Repurpose quick, interesting facts and quotes for Facebook and Twitter posts as well as blogs, online newsrooms, etc. Slice and dice pieces of your news to provide focus and frequency on your key messages.
- Provide links to related resource content that will help the audience understand the story and produce more value.
Journalists still want news releases. Since they are pressed for time, they are hungry for well-written news releases with information they can copy and paste for online and print use. A good news release will drive both traditional and social media coverage.
Trade publication journalists in particular rely on news releases to fill their news holes online and in print. At Ward, nearly half our clients are business-to-business companies, focused in large, technical industries such as oil and gas and mining, and the trade press is critically important. Editors want news releases they can use verbatim or quickly repurpose to inform their readers. That content is then repurposed for product briefs, product spotlights, etc. Equipment-heavy magazines survive on that content. The seemingly small announcements, such as promotions or new hires are valuable in many industries. Readers like to know who is involved in their industry, and what they are doing. Further, news releases denote that something is happening, which investors, customers, employees and strategic partners expect and want to see from companies.
Sometimes, a blog or a tweet with a link is the most effective method of news delivery, while tweets, infographics or videos may be a more relevant method of broadcasting a message. The key is to incorporate all delivery methods into an effective, robust PR program.
The news release is no longer the only tool in a PR person’s pitch arsenal. It is now just one of the many tools we can use to secure and subsequently shape stories. A press release has a place alongside targeted tweets, smart multimedia pitches, and a good old-fashioned telephone call.
When you see a news a release generate an increase in SEO, land a new customer, prompt an inquiry or interest from a reporter that results in a game-changing feature article profiling your product or company, that is proof that news releases are alive and well — and doing their jobs.
Do you need help crafting highly effective, clear, interesting and relevant news releases that attract journalists and prospects to you? Contact Ward to develop a public relations strategy to cause your intended results.