Stop press: Public relations practitioners have started to talk about media releases in the past tense. Is the media release dead?
The media release, also known as a press release, is dead. That’s what some public relations practitioners would have you believe. Unsurprisingly, there are many in the media who have applauded its demise, plagued as they were by hundreds of these PR staples every day.
We at Pure Public Relations believe there is still a time and place for media releases, and we continue to prove their effectiveness on a regular basis for various clients. So if media releases aren’t dead, how do we account for their unpopularity? They might not be dead, but here’s what they absolutely are: overused.
The pitfalls of press releases
The first press release is said to have been born after a 1906 train wreck claimed the lives of more than 50 people. The train company, Pennsylvania Railroad, swiftly issued a statement to news outlets about what had happened and their proactive release of information led to many outlets republishing the statement – apparently, in one case, verbatim.
Today, the role of the press release is the same: a controlled channel of information from an organisation designed for media outlets to take up and use. The problem is that they are so often misused or overused.
Here are some of the mistakes PR agencies make with media releases:
The media release is not targeted. Lazy PR practitioners will churn out content hoping a journalist will copy and paste it. It is not targeted or written with the journalist and/or the media outlet’s reader/listener/viewer in mind. You can imagine what happens next: delete.
The media release is not newsworthy or relevant. Why did Pennsylvania Railroad’s press release work? It was both timely and informative, addressing what the public wanted to know about what happened. Many contemporary media releases are mouthpieces for organisations but don’t have a hook that speaks to current interests, an upcoming event, a relevant issue or the news.
The media release is promotional. Media outlets have an editorial focus, so if your media release crosses the line into promotional territory, it won’t be picked up. Consider taking out an advertisement instead. This way you can guarantee coverage.
The media release lacks substance. Have you heard about the game-changing, world-first, leading disrupter that is rewriting the rules of success? If your media release is over-exaggerated and full of jargon, double-speak, and unsubstantiated claims, media professionals simply roll their eyes and press delete. Make sure your message is clear and relevant or it becomes a waste of everyone’s time – including yours.
More than a media release
So you know a media release won’t work for you. What now? The good news is there are a number of other ways to attain media coverage that take the same amount of effort but can actually turn out to be more valuable for you and your brand.
Here are some alternatives that every PR agent and business should consider pitching before issuing a media release:
Opinion piece/blog post: If you can make a strong, articulate case for or against something with regard to a hot news topic or an issue in the public interest based on your expertise, this style of content would appeal to a media outlet and position you as a knowledgeable source.
Advice article/blog post: If your organisation solves a problem or addresses an issue and you can offer related advice, this would be good content to pitch. It positions you and your organisation as helpful and relevant.
Case study: Sometimes it’s difficult to explain the benefits of your product or service. Offering a case study tailored to the media outlet shows these benefits and has the added bonus of focusing on a client or customer to tell the story so it’s less likely to be viewed as promotional, although by association it shows your organisation in a positive light.
Interview: This is a great option if you’re a well-spoken industry expert in a newsworthy area but the media outlet is looking for voices for a story they control rather than your byline. Do well and you could become their go-to person for your subject area.
Not every organisation is suited to issuing media releases, so if your PR agency continues to create them without suggesting alternatives, and they’re having no discernible effect, you should rethink your PR strategy and your relationship with them. The media release isn’t dead, but there’s more to public relations than a weak press statement.