Some time ago, press releases were the main currency of public relations. They came in a certain shape, they all answered a certain set of questions, and in general, they did not deviate from the accepted PR standards. At that time, there were very few channels of distribution and publicists and PR professionals were desperately sending their fine-tuned pitches to journalists with the hope of getting them published. It was considered an achievement to get that invaluable mention in a national journal. Moreover, such accomplishments were commemorated for CEOs, boards of directors, and shareholders in a complex ritual of collecting newspaper clippings and making PR scrapbooks. At that time, there were no tangible ways of tracking results, measuring brand awareness or exposure. Everything happened in the blurry context of the hypothetical and there were only rough estimates.
Then something happened. The year was 2006. The former FT journalist Tom Foremski wrote his famous article "Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!" and virtually sent the traditional press release on the road to destruction. Along came the social media explosion and things changed beyond recognition. Indeed, this was the time when the death knells chimed loud and clear and the news release as we all knew it died only to be born again. Indeed, a better press release format rose from the ashes and the world got the online social media press release.
This phoenix press release differs significantly from its predecessor in three main aspects: focus, methods of distribution, and reach. Hence, it is mandatory to examine those three facets in a greater detail and draw certain parallels with the hope that businesses would adapt to the PR changes rapidly.
1. Change of focus
Whereas the traditional press release was mainly written for journalists and it was the professional writers who gave it a certain shape and angle, the social media press releases should be written for just everybody. Indeed, traditional journalists have lost some of their influence, and a new powerful movement of bloggers and digitally savvy citizens has taken control of the online media fronts. What is more, people are more media aware and they often pick and choose the news they want to read. Often, they find the industry bits they are thrilled to read on their own. So, attention business and PR professionals! Before you sit down and write your press release, think about your potential pool of readers. You no longer have to appeal to journalists only. Now you have new media variables in your PR equation, so think about it and figure out a way to write something that appeals to multiple media actors.
2. Methods of Distribution
In the good old days, traditional journalists and their editors were perceived to be the sole gatekeepers to media exposure. The rise of social media radically changed the PR landscape and empowered the average internet user. You must realize that while you are sending pitches by mail to journalists and editors, people are searching the web and social networks for information.Hence, you might be barking at the wrong tree and largely wasting your efforts. Whereas getting your press release published in newspapers and big online journals still counts a lot, do not underestimate the power of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, ReddIt, Delicious, etc. Those are excellent channels of distribution and all you have to do is to create an account if you still do not have one. In fact, the number of people who check their Twitter and Facebook accounts in the morning is significantly larger than the number of people who read the newspapers. So, think about it.
Face the basic facts. Currently, Facebook has over 500 million active users, Twitter boasts over 190 million, StumbleUpon has received over 13 billion views from its 10 million users. The blogosphere, on the other hand, has its billions of bloggers ready and willing to digest news and write their entries. Now consider the number of people that an old-fashioned press release can reach on a daily basis. Bear in mind that online media allow you to share information and interact with others. The moral of this fast-fact story is that if harnessed properly, social media can provide for a greater reach of your press release. Hence, make sure that your press release is shareable online and go conquer the new media Wild West!
In conclusion, we can simply go back to our initial premise and shout it out loud: the traditional press release is dead, long live the social media press release!
Our guest blogger is Mariela Dimitrova, the marketing wire of the Amsterdam-based software and communications company Rock & Code. She is here to share some of her thoughts and expertise with you. Do you want to become our next guest blogger? If you have a relevant topic you would love to blog about, please contact us. We can provide you with the space you require to share your knowledge with the world!