Are Press Releases Still a Thing?

There is a constant debate in the industry about whether or not press releases are even relevant anymore. My opinion on the matter is: yes and no. Like anything else, there is a time and a place for a press release.

The problem is clients associate public relations with press releases, and sometimes they want a press release written for every little thing. However, as a publicist, it is your job to lead your clients in the right direction, and advise them on when and where a press release can actually be useful.

For example, Samantha Slaven, Founder at Samantha Slaven Publicity notes that she sent out more releases in 2015 than she had in the several years prior, explaining, “For a new apparel client, we’ve circulated two releases in the last month. One was announcing the new company CEO, who’d come to the company from a very prestigious previous positon, and the other was to announce the launch of a new label debuting at Coterie/Project. These had limited distribution – focused on fashion trades and fashion news editors – as we had a specific target in mind.”

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding to write a press release:

Will a press release assist with coverage?

The fact is press releases can be very time consuming, and your clients are only paying you for a certain amount of hours each month. Unless you really have to write a press release, your time is better spent pitching. Educate your clients on how much time it takes to write and get approval for a press release. I bet if they knew, they wouldn’t want for every little thing. Explain that you could be devoting that time to getting their message out there, and see if that changes their tune.

Unless you really have to write a press release, your time is better spent pitching. Educate your clients on how much time it takes to write and get approval for a press release.

For Nancy Vaughn, Principal at White Book Agency, the decision comes down to the type of information you need to spread, noting that “there are some stories that require more detailed info (stats, quotes, pricing, etc.) and we’ve found it better to have a press release ready than to have to scramble to put one together later (often after an editor/writer’s request).”

Can the info be found elsewhere?

Before the Internet, press releases were more relevant. Now, most of the information that the media needs to know is on your client’s website. Don’t write a press release for things that can easily be found online. Instead, insert hyperlinks in your pitch to point media contacts in the right direction.

How “big” is this news, really?

Like I said earlier, there is a time and place for a press release. Use your professional judgement on when they are necessary. When you have a lot of information to convey they can be helpful. For example, I like to use some kind of press release (or media alert) for events and product launches. This way you can include all the details in one place and the media can easily reference one document when they need to.

Don’t write a press release for things that can easily be found online. Instead, insert hyperlinks in your pitch to point media contacts in the right direction.

Crosby Noricks, Founder at PR Couture agrees, “most often I encourage brands to think of press releases as a resource document to put at the bottom of a personalized pitch that an editor can reference if she chooses.” Samantha Slaven Publicity notes her agency’s policy is to “attach or embed the releases alongside a specific pitch + product/relevant jpegs, vs circulating a release on its own.”

Would a Fact Sheet suffice?

At the beginning of each campaign, create a one-sheet with all the basic information about your client. This should help to prevent a lot of future press release writing. It will also save you time when people are asking basic information about your client.

Do you need a media alert instead?

If your promoting an event, you may need a media alert instead of a press release. Nancy explains that “a media alert with additional event details letting the media know what to expect, the time red carpet interviews will begin, location information for the media tent etc can be helpful and save phone calls or texts on the day of the event.”

After making it through this list, you might find that the news warrants an official release. Now the decisions becomes; who should write it? Samantha notes that press release writing is a bit of a dying art, “My millennials on staff don’t even have the skill set to really write a hard-news release, put they can put together great pitches capturing current trends and the mood of the industry.”

What is your opinion on the proper use of press releases in our industry?

Image via: Utelier

About This Author

Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. She specializes in business, lifestyle, fashion and beauty. Rebekah also blogs about all things Gen Y at NeonNotebook.com.