The killer press release - or kill the press release?

I was having lunch with a Lyanna from Station Road this week and as well as chatting about growing our businesses and the old catch 22 of working in your business too much and not on it enough. We chatted about the PR cornerstone that is the press release - it's a bit like the chicken and the egg, I am not sure which came first PR or the press release.

For me there is still a place for a good 'old fashioned' press release. But it should very much be viewed as a tool in the toolbox and not the only way to communicate everything-and-anything-to-the-media-and-not-a-non-targeted-throw-it-at-a-large-dartboard-hoping-something-will-stick-kinda-way.

It is also as much about what is in the press release, why you are sending it, when you send it and also some discussions with your client about if the news they are sharing needs to be a 'traditional' press release at all.

In the last week I've sent an email to food editors inviting them to taste a new product. This didn't need to be a press release. It may have been kicked into the long grass as being too pushy if it was. Happily we got to see BBC Good Food, Delicious, Olive, Red, Stylist....

I've also sent out two regional press releases about a national food award. The content was quite complex and there needed to be sign off from three different organisations so a press release was the best way to share the information.

I saw in the Drum this week that Steve Waddington said that the press release isn't dying. I have to agree. He came up with eight reasons why it still is an often used channel of communication.

I have two more reasons to add:

  1. Clients feel they are getting VFM if press releases are being issued to the media. I think we as comms professionals have a job to do to take our clients on a journey on how it may not always be the right vehicle for the results they want.
  2. It's quick and 'safe': Clients or Directors of in-house teams are sometimes cautious to give their PR person a freer reign to have a chat with a journalist or pitch looser ideas or themes. The good old press release has an audit trail.

So as much as some people in my industry may groan about a press release and having to hit the phones if you have done your homework and a press release is the correct tool in your kit then it should fly. If it doesn't then it may not be the release that is the problem. It could be that you are using the wrong tool.

Now don't get me wrong, as Wadds also pointed out we have all probably had to release a PR we didn't believe in from time to time. But maybe that bit can actually die?