Why the press release isn’t dead (and won’t be for some time)

Ahhh, the press release. The staple of the PR toolkit.

I’ve heard the death knell of the press release more times than I’ve had hot pitches. 

And I’m here to tell you the press release isn’t dead,  it’s still alive and kicking.

I remember press releases from the other side – in the newsroom. I once practically filled a weekly edition of the newspaper where I cut my teeth by delving into the news editor’s in-tray of press releases on a quiet Thursday afternoon.

This was back when press releases would be stuffed into envelopes, and when there was only one newsroom email address. Or they would be faxed in – remember faxes?

The art of honing a tight, impactful press release is very much still part of my delivery on integrated comms campaigns. It used to be that press release writing and distribution was an almost daily occurrence within PR agency life.

Whilst I’m usually found teaching the art and science of PR or nailing a chief exec to the boardroom table with post-it notes and Sharpies (figuratively, not literally!), every so often I get to unleash smoking keyboards once again.

A straight forward press release formed a crucial part of our community engagement campaign for Truro Town Deal, more of which later.

Why the press release isn’t dead 

There are a few reasons why the press release stands the test of time. 

They help you get the story across that you want to tell. Reporters (print, online and broadcast) are pressed for time more than ever. A well-written press release for many platforms enables the optimum “Control C/Control V, tidy up and file” process.

It encourages you to pitch your story in one sentence. The opening paragraphs should tell journalists everything they need to know. The press release, therefore, has two purposes – one, to get a journo’s attention; two, to get them to use it.

For online news, reporters will enrich their content in other ways. You provide the backdrop of the story, they can then capture their own video footage.

You can also build in your web marketing key phrases. And backlinks to your site.

Search engines favour quality content that carries relevance, and backlinks are worth their weight in SEO gold. Media relations are naturally about generating better quality content on respected platforms, which is beneficial to the publisher and the client. 

You can also line up comments from your spokespeople. Getting a media-friendly soundbite from your spokespeople supports the print and online media to get what they need quickly and cleanly.

And within a world where comms teams are embracing all things PESO (Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned), it can form the basis of a paid-for editorial campaign to control messaging and resulting coverage.

The fast-changing, integrated media landscape

For Truro Town Deal, our brief was to manage the full launch of a community engagement programme, from owned media – creating a brand and website – to earned media – generating front page media coverage. All activity was designed to drive feedback about the Town Investment Plan and its regeneration projects.

Our news angle was to present an inspiring vision of Truro as a connected river city, ripe for £25 million of Government investment. We combined tightly written copy about the bid opportunity plus detail about each of the projects, together with never-been-seen artists impressions of projects. Our media partners at the Truro Voice planned a two-part campaign over the course of a fortnight.

Working in standard newspaper copy style meant we could largely control the narrative – our copy was used word-for-word, with some titles working headlines and their own picture selections to work their angle.

Coupled with the media relations work, we ran both front-page banner and run-of-paper advertising in local titles, including a cut out coupon for the community to give feedback.

And the results? Coverage across our target titles including five front page pieces during the life of the campaign. This in turn helped to generate more than 450 pieces of feedback both digitally via the website, and by post – feedback forms were heading into our offices long after the campaign ran.

Do you need a razor-sharp press release crafted for your media relations campaign? Talk to the Agile team.