R.I.P.: The Press Release?

Is the press release dead? According to an article by Advertising Age’s Simon Dumenco, it is.

http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=145838

In the article, Dumenco claims that thanks to Twitter, the press release is no longer a relevant tool to disseminate information. Dumenco says that people have come to rely on Twitter for everything from the latest in celebrity news to crisis communication. In fact, he mentions JetBlue (www.jetblue.com) and BP’s (www.bp.com) failure to utilize Twitter effectively in recent months when they were in the news. In BP’s case, he notes that their PR team chose to send a press release while the world was waiting to hear their official response about the oil spill via Twitter. Meanwhile, a fake Twitter account, @BPGlobalPR, was making a mockery of the company. Dumenco believes these events were the nails in the coffin for the “long-suffering, much-maligned press release.”

Despite Dumenco’s claim that nowadays “140 characters or fewer suffices,” I must disagree. Although I agree that Twitter is an amazing tool for spreading information quickly, it’s not always appropriate. Tweets are great to spark initial conversation, but then I think it’s time for the press release to bring it all together with necessary information and a clearer, well-developed message. It seems almost ludicrous that someone can rely on a tweet to deliver even half of the vital information that a press release can.

Granted, press releases have changed over time. Instead of mailing information the old-fashioned way, we now have the option to send new “social media news releases,” complete with sound, video and other multimedia capabilities. There are also sites like www.pitchengine.com that allow anyone to post releases for the world to see. And partnered with sites like www.muckrack.com, which provides reporters’ Twitter handles, public relations professionals can have the best of both worlds by tweeting links of your published press releases to reporters.

So even though Twitter seems to be the top dog, I think the press release is far from extinct. And by the looks of the comments below Dumenco’s article, I’m not the only one who thinks so.

What are your thoughts?

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16 Responses to R.I.P.: The Press Release?

  1. kzinn says:

    I completely agree with your standpoint on the value of a press release vs. Twitter. From my perspective, I also see Twitter as valuable yet don’t necessarily trust it as my most pure form of news. For example, I recall using Twitter the day Michael Jackson passed away. What seemed like hundreds of tweets regarding the matter unfolded before me, however, it was not until I turned on CNN and read a New York Times online article that I actually believed it. As you mentioned, the press release offers a more in-depth opportunity to announce and explain and is far more official and explanatory than Twitter could ever be. Perhaps BP and Jet Blue could have used Twitter most effectively by posting a link to their official press release as a tweet in a timely manner. Great post!

    • shuscher says:

      I think you bring up a great point about credibility. I agree, if I read a tweet as opposed to a press release, I would definitely take the information with a grain of salt if I didn’t have confidence in the source. Just like @BPGlobalPR proved, it’s possible to confuse people as to whom the actual company representative is, even though it was just a parody. Granted, press releases can also be faked. However, I think it’s easier to track their source than it is with a Twitter account.

  2. hdfulton says:

    I totally agree. Although the media industry is switching to a more media-friendly (and media dependent) platform, I think it’s too bold to classify press releases as “endangered.” As we all know, Twitter limits character use. For the average news consumer, perhaps 140 characters provide enough of a summary to please, but it shouldn’t be enough for the press.

    There needs to be a friendly relationship between tweets and press releases. Post a tweet to spark conversation and get people to inquire about what’s going on, and then submit a release to explain more.

    Personally, I think Simon Dumenco spoke prematurely. He has a point that the internet, social media particularly, is changing the way the media world works; however, he should have considered the thought that Twitter might be outdated in a few years.

    Even if Dumenco is right, and the press release fades out, I think it’ll make a comeback eventually. I mean, look at the fashion industry. Bell-bottom jeans, leggings and fluorescent-colored outfits are back on the racks after decades – why not the press release?

    • shuscher says:

      You bring up a vital point. With technology constantly evolving, there’s no telling what we’ll be using to disseminate information in the future. Twitter hasn’t been around very long, and it’s almost impossible to predict when the next great communication medium will arrive. Even if the press release is replaced by something soon, I’m sure it’s major elements will remain. Whatever it may be, I can almost guarantee it will take more than 140 characters.

  3. cbaumgar says:

    I also agree with ASCK and the comment before mine. Although PR professionals have become extremely dependent on Twitter and other social networks, I do not think it is enough to completely take over the use of press releases. I do agree that press releases are becoming more archaic, but I do not think they are extinct. Since tweets are limited to 140 characters, how do you write all your information from a one-page press release in it? Who, what, when, where, why and how cannot fit in 140 characters.

    I also think press releases are important because they are tangible and increase the chances that they are looked at by all news outlets and constituents that you intend to see them. If something is posted on Twitter, a news station or other follower may not see the information. This could lead to fewer audiences knowing about your event.

    Although I am not the biggest fan of Twitter, or press releases for that matter, I understand their individual importance. Twitter can be a conversation starter and a way to spread the news while press releases offer more in-depth information. Press releases can explain why someone should donate to a cause or why an event is held. Twitter cannot. So although I think they are becoming more archaic, I would not go as far as Dumenco in saying press releases are extinct.

  4. latipton says:

    I agree with everyone that has posted so far. Press releases and Twitter serve different purposes. Twitter gets people talking about an issue, but 140 words can’t possibly give them enough information. Press releases should tell people the newsworthiness of an issue to spark accurate media coverage. Though I think press releases and Twitter are both important marketing strategies, they should exist together. One cannot replace the other.

    I previously posted a blog on the Twitter App, TwitHawk, which could serve as a better alternative than simply using Twitter to release news. TwitHawk is designed to get a message out to a more specific audience. It sends messages based on location and topic. I think Twitter will only continue its development in these Apps, making it easier and more helpful to get messages out to those who want to see them, but I don’t think it will replace the press release.

  5. rmmoore5 says:

    As an avid Twitter user, it is weird for me to say that I prefer using a press release when pitching the media. But I have had success with both. When I worked for the Channing Frye Foundation as their public relations intern, I was in charge of pitching the media to attend his youth basketball tournament . I wrote a traditional press release and sent it out via standard mail and email. I also pitched through Twitter but overall, I had more success with media emailing me back and calling me, then I did with tweets.

    While the press release seems out of date, I still consider it to be the one of the best communciations tools between public relations practioners and the media. It can provide so much more indepth information compared to a 140 character tweet. The press release has evolved more in the last decade than it has over the century thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and social media.

    I am just curious to know if anyone has had success using Twitter when pitching the media?

  6. jhickam says:

    I actually wouldn’t really mind if the press release were dead. As a public relations major that is a pretty bold statement to make, but the traditional press release doesn’t seem effective anymore. I worked for Undergraduate Student Government last year and my job was, essentially, to write press releases. Finally, after about a month of e-mailing the State Press all of my beautifully formatted, professionally finished press releases (many of which ended up as front page stories), one of the editors at the newspaper sent me an e-mail letting me know that I didn’t have to keep writing them if I didn’t want to. If I just sent them a quick paragraph about the story, they’d get back to me if they wanted more information. (None of my releases were longer than a page, double spaced.) The point is that with all of the technology these days, the State Press didn’t need me to detail events for them. My press releases served more as an alert that such-and-such was happening and as the starting point for future conversations. Newspapers are publishing shorter stories with quicker time stamps. While I’m not sure if Twitter will be the new press release, Dumenco has a point that fast, short information is in — a page is too long — and lengthy details are out. I agree with the previous comments that press releases are still really useful to prove the validity of information, however, it is only the starting point of the ways successful public relations professionals are working with media these days.

  7. cmmassey says:

    I think that most people look at things as one way or the highway. Life is not about one option and one time. It is about using all of your tools to create the best means of action. The press release and Twitter are tools for your tool-belt, not the tool-belt itself. Twitter can never convey a complete message a press release can. A press release can never be as timely as Twitter. Together, however, both can create an interactive approach to the message the user wants to convey. Pitchengine.com is a great site to upload press releases and generate a link to the release. Pitchengine.com uses the best of both worlds. After the user generates the link to their press release, the user can then post their link in a tweet on Twitter. The press release is not dead; it is just used in a different way.

  8. mwilson9 says:

    I love this post, and I absolutely agree with you. How absurd to think that twitter could even come close to causing death to the press release. I honestly believe that Twitter itself is heading downhill as all the novelty will soon wear off. The press release has been around for years and as far as I am concerned is a PR staple. The format has changed, but the idea has remained the same and 140 characters is not going to cut it.

    Twitter may serve as a nice complement to the Press Release, but it I really doubt it will be a replacement.

  9. pperryve says:

    Your point about the press release being far from dead is I think completely correct; but it, like most things in our high-tech world, is due for a renovation. I think that press releases will continue to be the go to staple for most PR practitioners but it is no longer the lynchpin of a PR campaign. Twitter, and other social media for that matter, is the launching pad, the thing that sparks interest. Once interest is sparked then classic media organizations have an audience for their press release. Even still though I think that social media is edging out the press release. Its a bit depressing to think of all of the time that us at the Cronkite School have spent learning how to craft a great press release, but I do believe they are on their way out.

  10. bmalex says:

    I’m going to join the crowd and agree with the fact Twitter has not defeated the press release in the war of mutual existance. It’s insane to think that a message can be delivered properly in 140 characters rather than a well-organized, concise press release.

    What was particularly interesting to me on Dumenco’s article was that the majority of this had to do with celebrity news. Of course celebrities like Kanye, Lindsay Lohan, and Kelsey Grammer are going to tweet news about themselves. Their fans follow them on Twitter like they’re actually friends in real life rather than just followers in cyber space.

    As for BP, I personally believe they had to do everything possible to even think about surviving after the oil spill in the Gulf. If I were in charge of BP PR, I’d unleash every tool possible that stopped every person on the Gulf Coast from despising my company. And for JetBlue, they’re considered as a hip, modern airline. It’s logical they’ll be all over the social media as so many other corporations are.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. But if you think the press release is going away because of Twitter, I think you’re seriously mistaking.

    PS- while we’re on the subject, follow me at @brent_alex!

  11. rlbarber says:

    I saw this article and I can’t say I totally agree. I think there will always be some form of a press release. It’s the easiest way to get all the facts and necessary information to the audience. I think Twitter and Facebook are great tools that have made getting initial information to a significant number of people quick and easy. However, 140 characters and trendy social networking sites aren’t necessarily going to be as informative and reliable as a press release. Even traditional press releases will continue to evolve but I don’t think you can replace the reliability and ability to fit all the info in one document.

  12. jkramey says:

    I think Brent raises a great point … Dumenco does talk an awful lot about celebrities. I see Twitter as the tabloid version of a press release. Yes, elements of truth exist, but in a news world where people already have to sift through online sites for trustworthy news, why would I want to sort through endless tweets for a reliable news nugget?

    I don’t mean to dismiss the power of Twitter for corporations such as BP and JetBlue. Press releases reach out to the media who, in turn, disseminate that information to the public. Twitter allows the corporation to give a more personable (arguably) message straight to their stakeholders in a seemingly more personal relationship.

    Ultimately, I think Twitter and the press release will continue to co-exist. It seems that Twitter is continuing to increase its reliability by verifying account holders, so maybe someday we will view it as a trusted source of news. For now, the press release lives on.

  13. sbfogel says:

    In true bandwagon form, I completely agree with my fellow commenters in that Twitter is NOT taking over for the press release. Modern day social media is no doubt important to getting the message out there and popularizing a brand … but 140 words or less can not effectively communicate all of the vital information usually relayed in a standard press release.

    In Seth Godin’s book, “Tribes,” he explains that social media is trendy and ever-changing. This unstable form of communication is not the type of venue in which a public relations professional should conduct their contact with media members.

    The press release may be old, but it is a reliable form of ‘getting the word out there’. While modifications such as the additions of multimedia elements, hyperlinks, etc have been added to press releases, I don’t foresee a time that social media will overtake the standard form of press release communication.

  14. kmcasey1 says:

    This is a great blog topic! I agree with the most of the comments, Twitter and press releases are both vital public relations tools. Yes, Twitter has grown rapidly and “everyone” does use it, but it has not and will not replace the press release. That is because Twitter has a 140 character max, and a lot of information can not be restricted to 140 characters.

    So I disagree with Dumenco’s view. I do commend him for such an intriguing article. The press release is important because it strengthens its information and online presences. Press releases help increase SEO, and the better SEO, the faster and higher up it will appear on Google. Today, an online presence is essential.

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