May 19, 2014
Is Twitter causing the “death” of the press release?
If I see another article heralding the “death” of the press release, I think I’m going to scream.
No, really. Google lists 480 million results to the search “the press release is dead”, so you may hear me screaming for quite some time.
The ‘kick-the-press-release-while-it’s-down’ narrative has proved useful for many PR experts and social gurus alike, as a means of establishing credibility in social media as a true ‘disruptor’ in communications. (Guys, we get it - you don’t like writing press releases, you don’t like receiving them, and Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook are just so much easier to share content on.)
In a lot of ways the articles are right. We are living through a period of dramatic change in how individuals, communities and organisations interact. Social media is breaking down barriers to communication. No argument there.
But here’s why the press release will never really die (and why Twitter hasn’t killed it yet).
The very element that make the press release what it is, and makes it useful and necessary, lives on in these new communications tools, techniques and platforms.
Let’s take the idea of a ‘twit pitch’ - i.e. pitching a story to a journalist via Twitter, something I’ve increasingly done as a means to connect with the foreign press - and see how closely it matches up with ye olde press release.
Firstly, press releases are designed to be timely responses to, or comments on, news which is important to particular groups of people. Hence the date at the top and, usually, a catchy or informative headline. So what happens when we pitch to reporters on Twitter? We do the same thing, reaching out in a timely fashion to appropriate audiences and, in 140 characters, craft a headline and lead that generates (hopefully) maximum attention for our stories.
Delve a bit further, and thanks to a lifetime of ingrained journalism training, you will see that the press release subscribes to the inverted pyramid approach to details - most important at the top, least important at the bottom. And on Twitter, where would we be if we buried all the important details off the screen? How many tweets have you favourited or retweeted where the joke or interesting content is not in the original update?
Finally, what did press releases increasingly do as the web became more ingrained in our daily work habits? It included hyperlinks to websites, journal articles and the like. And what is a good tweet without a link? All the experts agree!
I know I know, it’s a small sample size. But I count myself lucky to have started in communications at a time when the press release was everything to media liaison. ‘Traditional’ writing skills still matter a lot. Without it, my work pitching to journalists over Twitter would probably have floundered. Instead of celebrating the death of the press release, let's give due homage to the communication fundamentals it helped instigate, and move on quietly to the ‘next big thing’…