In the digital era, when PR is all about two-way communication and increasing engagement, is the press release still showing signs of life? 

 
 

The press release is dead. Long live the press release!

Since year dot, press releases have been a staple of the PR toolbox for increasing awareness and enhancing reputation. 
 
Back in the ‘one way communication’ era, before the emergence of the digital world, press releases were the main tool used to engage with journalists and secure media exposure. Fast forward to the digital era, with online consumption dominating the media landscape, and PR is all about two-way communication and increasing engagement. Be it social media channels, blogs, vlogs, infographics, white papers, forums or interactive quizzes, a plethora of shareable digital content now offers many fresh ways to engage your desired audience - without necessarily relying on journalists to convey information.
 
So, is the press release still relevant? We think so, and here’s why. 
 
In our view, a well written press release will:
 
Deliver valuable media exposure for your business: A recent industry experiment found that the press release is very much alive and well as a tool for generating media exposure. However, it’s not the only tool, and our advice is to tailor your approach and content depending on the news you are sharing. You might remember David Cameron’s 2016 PR gaffe, where a ‘carpet bomb’ approach to press release distribution left the former Prime Minister looking distinctly foolish. Increasingly, journalists are using the press release very much as it was originally intended; as a starting point, or background fact sheet, from which they can build a story. 
 
Mix up your content strategy: Adding your own company news as one ingredient of your content marketing plan is a good thing to do and, if you’re writing a press release every month, that’s new web content each month. Plus, the chances are, if you’re writing a news story about your business it will naturally include a lot of keywords. You’ll be talking about the services you provide, perhaps a new contract you’ve won, maybe a new member of the team, perhaps an award, and it will be written in an engaging, human – not robotic – way. Which is great news for Google rankings. The more content you have on your site that incorporates the right balance of keywords, the better your site will perform in searches. So make sure that you post your news stories on your website, and tweak them so that they’re not exactly the same, word for word versions that you send out to the media to help avoid Google penalties. 
 
Give you something to say on social: It can be hard work finding new and interesting things to say all the time on social media. So building posts that send people to a news story on your website, or in the media, gives you a helping hand. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with posting about the same story more than once. Most people aren’t glued to their Twitter feed 24/7, which means that with some small tweaks, you can get several posts out of one good piece of content, getting your news out more widely, raising your profile and driving traffic to your website. And don’t forget to engage with media tweets about your news, too, by retweeting media coverage. 
 
Provide a catalyst for wider consumption: A press release used to be one-way traffic. Send it to a newspaper or magazine, and they either run it or they don’t. Now, it can do so much more. The press release is no longer operating in a vacuum. In a practical sense, this means that press releases are issued far less in isolation and have become a vehicle for sharing digital content assets through the inclusion of links and multimedia. By including links to resources that add value to the overall message, a well-crafted press release picked up by high domain authority websites influences search rankings and can therefore achieve wider online visibility for your company or brand. But, to be picked up, it has to address the clamour for impactful shareable digital content assets such as images, videos and infographics, with links to your website becoming a catalyst for social conversation. In short, a press release consisting of a raft of multimedia elements accompanying it containing links to other content assets can often generate considerably more organic visibility than a plain-text press release.
 
Make newsletters a breeze: Having news stories readily available makes life so much easier when it comes to pulling together a company newsletter. For so many companies, the main barrier to getting a regular newsletter out to their customers and prospects is having something to put in it. Here, once again, the humble press release can swoop in and save the day. Use the version you put onto your website, repurpose it to make sure it’s tailored to your audience, and you’re good to go. Newsletter content headache gone. What more could you ask for? 
 
Stop you shouting into a void: If you’re familiar with PR, you will probably have heard of ‘advertising value equivalents’, or AVEs. It’s how PR used to be measured in the olden days, and it essentially calculates the value of media coverage in terms of the amount you would have paid in advertising to secure that same exposure. We have long since abandoned it as a measurement, largely because Google analytics, email marketing tracking software and the evaluation capabilities built in to social media platforms (SERP ranking, views, clicks, shares and likes) can tell you so much more about your press release’s journey – and, crucially, what people did after they read it online or even in traditional media – which will help you evaluate current activity and shape future communications.
 
So what’s our prognosis?
 
Our view is that the press release is still very much alive and kicking, but only if it adapts to survive and remain fit for purpose in the digital age. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that a well written press release, used in the right way, can do so much more for your wider PR and marketing than ever before. 
 
As well as offering multiple uses in a coordinated content marketing plan, its value is far more quantifiable than its traditional counterpart. Where the impact of offline media coverage generated via a press release was hard to measure, today’s ROI analysis is far more quantifiable, making the humble press release a truly valuable addition to your PR and wider marketing activity. That’s our take on it - we’d love to know what you think.
    
 
The Partners Group

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