The press release isn’t quite dead… but we should seriously consider killing it off

It’s time we ended our over-reliance on this dated, ineffective way of getting our messages out.

The process of getting a B2B press release out is slow, soul-destroying, and ultimately futile. Outside of big announcements like exciting year-end results, a major new product or a huge recruitment drive, the general public probably doesn’t give a monkeys about anything you have to say.

Harsh but true.

A handy test: Would your Mum and Dad still want to read about this in the paper if you weren’t the author? What about Aunty Jane? Or your mates? If you can’t think of many people outside your company who would want to read about it, don’t issue a press release on it. (That might just sound like common sense, but it’s shockingly rare.)

Here’s how it works in most organisations

Step 1: A topic is chosen based on the company’s needs with very little consideration given to whether the press or the public care about it

Step 2: A first draft is written. Feedback is received. A second draft is written. More amendments. Run it by Legal. Few more tweaks. Final sign off from the Head of Department. This process takes anything from days to weeks, and sometimes months. By the end, risk-averse companies have usually sucked any semblance of personality. It is generic, corporate and boring.

Step 3: But hey – at least it’s approved! Let’s do this. Time to get our story out to the media. Instead of hand-selecting a small number of journalists who might be interested in the story, let’s use our handy Excel file or that list in our CRM to blast it out to every journalist who’s ever covered a story in our sector.

Step 4: Nobody’s picked it up apart from some blog no one’s ever heard of. Right, let’s get on the phone and call up some friendly journalists. We can play a bit of ‘carrot and stick’, including helpfully reminding them that we have advertised with their publication, and may do so again in the future. Call the trade mags, they’re usually good for a bit of coverage. Maybe resend the email to journos one more time.

Step 5: Okay, that didn’t go as well as we’d hoped. It doesn’t really matter though because all the Department that asked for it cares about is that it went out. It’s up on the company website, and it’s been sent around internally – and that’s good enough for them. In fact, it was kind of the point – Richard’s heard there’s a promotion up for grabs and he’s keen to let everyone in the company know what he’s doing.

Step 6: Weeks have past. Feels like longer. But at last it’s done. Oh wait, time for another press release? That’s right, because we don’t decide when to issue them based on when we have news, we have to get one a month out regardless. Back to Step 1 we go.

If this is ringing any bells, you’re not alone. It’s been something like this at every large organisation I’ve worked at in the last decade. It’s a tremendous waste of time and resources. Most importantly, it doesn’t work.

It has to stop. (Helpful hint: If you know this is the wrong way of doing things, but you’re not in a position to change it, forward your team this post and ask them for their views!)

Your job is not Media Relations. Your job is Public Relations. For some reason, too many of us are still doing PR like it’s the 1980s, when a tech and communications revolution has happened since then.

Getting your message out

There are a ton of options for getting your announcement out. Define your target audience and figure out the best way to get through to them.

Press: Determined to get into the media? If there is a publication that might actually be interested in what you have to say, call the most relevant journalist (yes, on the phone, it’s that noisy thing on your desk) and offer them an exclusive. Journalists much prefer a tailored, relevant, personal pitch that goes exclusively to them to a press release they know every journalist in their sector also received.If there isn’t a publication that thinks your story is interesting enough to warrant earned coverage, pay for the damned advertorial.

Content/ Inbound Marketing: Write a jargon-free blog post with a killer headline. Send it around internally (yay – Richard still gets his kudos), email it to any customers who have subscribed for updates and get it out on social media. For some reason, the approvals process for blog posts always seems easier than press releases, even though both are going to be distributed primarily online.

Influencers: Engage an influencer. B2B influencer marketing is an interesting and underdeveloped field. Research the most popular bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers in your sector and offer them a paid partnership.

Events: Hold an event. Does your new product or service solve a real business problem? (I mean, presumably?) Put on an event. It could be a breakfast seminar, an expert roundtable, or an exclusive dinner. Hire a nice venue, put on some decent food, get a great guest speaker and don’t go for the hard sell. Demonstrate without being pushy how much easier life will be with your company in it.

Think outside the box.

Set aside your KPIs for number of press releases per quarter for a second and figure out if this is actually a useful way to reach your goals.

Challenge the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ thinking.

What are your thoughts? Am I being too harsh?  I want to hear from you in the comments!

Katie Harrington is a Communications and Content professional based in Dublin, Ireland. Her book, Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art launched in November 2016. Katie has worked with global brands including Emirates Airline and Allianz, as well as in the Irish parliament and Qatar’s semi-government oil and gas company Nakilat. Follow her on and Instagram.

One thought on “The press release isn’t quite dead… but we should seriously consider killing it off

  1. Lianne says:

    Katie – I love reading your blogs! its so refreshing for someone to be out there reminding us that it really isn’t about the press release anymore. MEDIA relations is a hard slog for very little return, most of the time. The reality is that PUBLIC relations – a well written blog or an eye-catching social media post – is more likely to turn content into lead generation. After all, isn’t that the point. Keep banging the drum, Katie!

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