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Put a fork in it, the press release is (almost) dead

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Put a fork into costly, useless press releases with social media networking (courtesy drp on Flickr CC)This afternoon, it hit me….I can’t imagine, under most circumstances, paying $400 to send out a press release anymore.

Sure, I know that I could also send one out for $80 - $360, but I still can’t see doing that very often.

It has become a last resort, not a first choice.

I have a couple of newsworthy events coming up in the next two months that are directly tied to the social media topics that we cover here on Every Dot Connects.

There is a local angle, a tech angle and a travel angle.

This is how I’ll contact the media in my city’s major news outlet….

  • Journalist “A” is someone I know from his blog, from Twitter, from email exchanges between the two of us and from personal interactions at tech conferences and social events.  I would never send him a press release, I’ll just tell him, probably in an email or even a phone call.
  • Journalist “B” is someone I know from Facebook. I friended her there after reading a very good article under her byline in the newspaper’s print edition. I would never send her a press release, but I may send a note through Facebook or even write on her Wall.
  • Journalist “C” is someone I know almost entirely from Twitter.  I would never send him a press release; I’ll probably just DM (Direct Message) him on Twitter.

Clearly, there are times when you still need press releases and the wires, depending upon the nature of the announcement. My default position, however, is to find another way to make contact, preferably by using social media networks and relationships that are already established.

One of the basic tenets of good PR, of course, is to “dig your well before you’re thirsty.”

My contact won’t be spammy, boring, IN-box-clogging, expensive or predictable. It will be hyper-targeted, relevant and free.

(And I’ll betcha a whole hockey locker full of overpriced press releases that it will be quite effective. Keep an eye on this space for a URL to the story that I think will result.)

Can you give some examples of when the traditional press release might still be most effective, compared to carefully-tended social media networks?  Let us know in the comments!

This post was written by:

Sheila Scarborough - who has written 31 posts on Every Dot Connects.

I'm a writer and speaker specializing in tourism,travel and social media. Co-founder of Tourism Currents.

Contact the author

16 Comments For This Post

  1. marshal sandler Says:

    Excellent point ! I am 72 years old grew up with all forms of the old media ! My news for years has been delivered by the WWW. If a person can write effective copy and send it to a social media site asking to have the item published it in many cases it is published I have found if I write a comment that makes sense on a blog with the URL from my blog I get response ! If I was in business again, a well scripted Blog would be a must ! The Digital Media is making traditional news sources sleep right next To Custer !

  2. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Hi Marshal,

    Thanks very much for visiting - and congrats on jumping right into social networking, even at 72! Every Dot Connects founder Connie Reece’s mother, who is, I think, 84, is on Tumblr and Facebook. I feel like such a baby at 47. :)

  3. Deb Robison Says:

    Great points Connie! I think you get the best placement through journalists you already know that falls under playing to one’s strengths.

    What I don’t like about paying to send out a press release is that these companies often don’t give you their list. I think making pitch calls is the only way you get in- and build a relationship with the journalist. If you pay them to send it out and you get calls back, well, that’s nice, but you could have called a lot more people on the new list and at least initiated a relationship.

    I do think a traditional press release as pitch is important when working in a traditional media market. Largely because many publications - large and small - have cut staff so much that they need copy. A cut and paste approach is taken. Often times, I will see an entire paragraph of my content posted. That is usually in one of the small “local news” boxes in a larger paper. And in small local papers they often print the entire release.

    In some cases, journalists may choose to use the quote provided by in the release if they couldn’t reach your for an interview. I have seen mined used when I have been interviewed- they must not have like what I said. ;-)

    News stations often use press release copy to give folks reminders about events- like right before the switch to a commercial- the anchor will site the info (usually an event) or they will do a screen with the info posted. Also, they use this info in tickers.

    Radio stations are also hurting for copy, so they will read from sections of the release directly when reporting the news. Sometimes it is paraphrased.

    Finally, I use press releases as a calling card. If I haven’t worked with a journalist before, it gives me an opportunity to call and introduce myself. I know I may not get anything out of it, but at least I initiated a relationship.

    I know this works differently with bloggers, but still- having a relationship is key. Just how you do it is different. If you reach out and start the conversation, the release gives them content they can have as background.

  4. Jason Falls Says:

    Great post. To me a press release is like a stock photo. It’s there if you need to give it to the reporter, provided they need it and have use for it, but the relationship and communication between you and the reporter is the important exchange. If the need details as resource info to cover the story, offer them a release. If they don’t, just tell them what the need to know and hook them up with the right people to interview (where appropriate).

    $400? I’ve been sooooo underpaid.

  5. Joann Sondy Says:

    Your article is excellent and on-target for today’s (or this moment’s) PR spectrum. However, how should publicly-traded companies handle the REQUIRED DISTRIBUTION of press releases? There aren’t many analysts and traders on Twitter yet; in fact there aren’t very many public companies or investor relations officers on it either. So I think ditching PR and Business wire services might just be a little premature for all.

  6. Violet Says:

    Hi Sheila,

    You bring up some good points. You also have a great breakdown of A, B and C journalists but it might not work for all of us PR people. I am a regular reader of all the bloggers who I have a relationship with but I also remember that social networks are different for everyone. I am always careful about this since I don’t want to seem pushy or “stalker-ish”.
    Some people like to keep their facebook or linked-in profiles strictly for business and others strictly for their friends, family and personal life. Twitter seems to be a place for journalists, bloggers and PR people to connect so I will follow those I have relations with and keep up with their blog.

    As for traditional press releases, depending on the client and industry I just don’t send them unless asked. I would never want to receive a blanket copy and paste press release so my philosophy is to not send them. :)

  7. LaDonna Coy Says:

    Hi Connie,

    We haven’t met yet but I do follow you on Twitter and so happy to have found your blog. Your point is well made and from my experience, spot on. I do a lot of work with government agencies and projects and as you can imagine, they are continuing old habits of press releases, dissemination, and worse, they limit staff access to most online communities - hog-tying them when it comes to building relationships online.

    I think those who are unable to break down the barriers to new media will continue down the old paths - until agencies figure out the savings from low and no cost ways they can do what you so brilliantly do - participate, develop relationships and have multiple access points to let the word out to key people on open platforms. Of course, that means working differently and — giving up some control … hard to do in government circles.

  8. Craig Wilson Says:

    Couldn’t agree more Sheila. In fact, I believe most traditional models are facing extinction or substantial change. Just posted regarding that today: A turning point in marketing and media history? http://tinyurl.com/4cesr4

  9. Alan Weinkrantz Says:

    Connie…. no- the press release is not dead.

    I combine PR and Social Media and get results not only for clients, but for myself.
    Case in point:
    http://alanweinkrantz.typepad.com/alan_weinkrantz_and_compa/2008/09/dsl-reportselec.html

    Much depends on what type of company you are and what you are trying to achieve. A publicly traded company has disclosure requirements and need to be on wire services. A start up may have a need to get media coverage and at the very least, be embedded in leading search engines that services like BusinessWire and PR Newswire provide.

    Social Media complements traditional PR and traditional PR makes you think about communications strategy, messaging, a company’s voice and much more.

    So, no. The press release is not dead.

  10. Alan Weinkrantz Says:

    Connie…. no- the press release is not dead.

    I combine PR and Social Media and get results not only for clients, but for myself.
    Case in point:
    http://alanweinkrantz.typepad.com/alan_weinkrantz_and_compa/2008/09/dsl-reportselec.html

    Much depends on what type of company you are and what you are trying to achieve. A publicly traded company has disclosure requirements and need to be on wire services. A start up may have a need to get media coverage and at the very least, be embedded in leading search engines that services like BusinessWire and PR Newswire provide.

    Social Media complements traditional PR and traditional PR makes you think about communications strategy, messaging, a company’s voice and much more.

    So, no. The press release is not dead.

  11. Sheila Scarborough Says:

    Let me apologize for a busy week that kept me from interacting more with the excellent comments left on the post….er, and I’m Sheila Scarborough, another Every Dot Connect-or who works and writes with Connie Reece….:)

    As I said in the post, the press release may well still be of value in some marketing situations, but what I wanted to do here was to shake up standard thinking a bit about how social networking may offer a more effective option.

    If your client insists on press releases, you’ll have a rough row to hoe if you blow them off, and I understand that.

    I would just offer that there is another way, and as always, its effectiveness is based on pre-established trust and relationships.

  12. Allan Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. When was the last time I even read or paid attention to a press release? I just don’t think anyone reads them anymore. You’ve got to go where the audience is and the audience is living online in social networks and other types of news aggregation sites like Digg. Now if a PR pro can guarantee that he can get me to the top of Digg or the front page, that is value I’d pay for.

    Have you ever tried guerilla PR within Digg? It’s quite difficult to get any traction unless you are very influential and have a ton of friends on Digg.

  13. Susan/Unique Business Opportunity Says:

    I love your quote, “dig you well before you’re thirsty”. I busy digging mine now. I’m glad I found your blog, it’s very uplifting.

  14. http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidhughes1 Says:

    I wouldn’t play taps for the press release just yet.

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidhughes1

  15. David Hughes Says:

    I find that the “dig your well before your thirsty” applies to almost all facets of life as well as PR.

    David Hughes

  16. Soultravelers3 Says:

    I loved this and stumbled it right away!

    I follow you on twitter,as you know, so that is where I saw it first. I also love your great website on family travel since we are a family on an open ended world tour & it is full of great info!!

    I just added it to the discussion that we writers, bloggers, journalists, PR and media people were having on Twitter, so thought I would add that hashtag here in case anyone wanted it. #journchat

    I hope all who are interested join in the conversation on this very relevant topic! Thanks for yet another great post Sheila!

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