Michael Tangeman reflects on the news release – and particularly the concept of the social media release. But a few things surprise me about discussions on press releases:
- There is a presumption of a “right way”, an only way to write/produce a press release
- It is generally used as a mass mailing approach with little attempt to tailor for different journalists or media
- Even when emailed or used on a website, the “traditional” rules of printed press releases dominate (despite some relating to pre-computer press processes)
Journalists always act as if the release is to provide them with information to develop a story, when in reality a large percentage are reproduced verbatim.
- The press release is just a tool – a convenient way (supposedly) of communicating information to the media, who are a gate-keeper to other audiences. That’s the PR perspective – for the media, it should be a convenient way of obtaining news and other information from an organisation to inform them, stimulate them to write a story, or provide background information (for example).
So, some journalists may wish to just reproduce releases (as in the case of many B2B or free publications). Here, public relations practitioners would be advised to write the story in the style of the publication, including quotes and other information to create a relevant, interesting and not overly puffy release.
But, other media don’t want to be spoonfed. They want your organisation’s position on an issue or topic and use this information in creating their own take. They might just want a simple statement from the PR office – the official perspective.
Or they may need a release that includes all the relevant information and supporting or background data, etc. Something a social media release aims to do with links and so forth. A key factor will be their deadlines – they want it quickly, of course, but is that to report immediately or to help in developing a more insightful story.
This multi-media, in-depth approach is also helpful for new product launches – such as cars – where a lot of detailed material may be required by some journalists. Others though, will want the abridged version – some even the “cut and paste” option.
Then, PRs may work with an individual journalist to develop a specific story – which will involve dialogue, providing statements and other information, organising visits, interviews and so on
Then there is the “release” as the online record for future reference or to respond to ongoing requests for corporate positions on issues or facts on products.
Yes, this “personalised approach” takes longer than a blanket release – but will pay dividends in credibilty and gratitude from the media.
- Regardless of the purpose, I’m not a fan of embedding graphics or logos in emailed releases – the focus should be on the content. Again this is something that an RSS feed from a media site could enable where the content is separated from the onsite formatting.
I know press releases might seem an old topic – but given that we are still expected to teach and assess writing them as a, often the, primary tool in public relations, it is appropriate to reflect and challenge their purpose and approach. Do you agree?