A few weeks ago I was chatting to a friend about how we respectively pitch to press. Her, as a 100% traditional PR, and me, who works across both traditional and digital roles.
I mentioned how, over the last couple of years, I’ve become less reliant on press releases, instead often letting the email do the talking for me. Of course I do still write them, but I’d say they now make up around 50% of my outreach emails – whereas once upon a time they were the bulk of 100% of each email. My PR pal, on the other hand, still outreaches with a press release in every single email.
I’ve read a lot of blogs, listened to a lot of webinars and been to a couple of talks where PR and comms people have said that they, too, have become less focussed on press releases. However these did focus more on digital PR, link building and content marketing. And with digital being what everyone is focussed on, it got me thinking – Is the press release dead?
Once upon a time PRs were, amongst other things, really great writers. However now they don’t necessarily need to be. Less and less do we rely on press releases to sell the journalist a story – the story sells the journalist the story. So we simply do not need them – all you really need, on top of a great idea, is a killer title, an opener explaining what is is and why you think it’s up their street, a few bullet points giving the key info, and of course a link to the relevant landing page with all the info they could possibly need.
At least this is true when it comes to digital campaigns – or for businesses which have a big online presence. But what about those that don’t? And where does that leave product PR?
Businesses that don’t rely on their website and don’t invest heavily in content marketing may struggle when it comes to outreaching without a press release. We’ve all seen the epic campaigns some of the best brands and agencies in the world have come up with, but without the investment, this isn’t possible. So how can you grab attention without this? Well it is possible. You can direct journalists to basic blog pages which just consist of text and an infographic made in Canva (I know, I’ve done it). And not always include a press release. Why? Well if you have an infographic, that tells the story for you. Same applies to tables embedded in the post, a video, or any other creative way of telling the story. But if you don’t have access to these, a press release announcing a rebrand, a new client win, an expansion, etc. will always require a press release.
Press packs are the pièce de résistance of product PR – the most lethal weapon in their arsenal. And with these come carefully crafted releases, often numerous revisions in, telling the story of the product in hand. And as much as digital campaigns dominate the headlines, there’s no way of getting around this more ‘traditional’ way of working. But this isn’t a bad thing. I’m a big fan of blending traditional PR strategies with digital ones for maximum effect. You can write a press release to lay gorgeously atop of a carefully packaged box of course, but taking it one step further is where you’ll see the best results. Send your packages with tracking, and once they’ve arrived, send each recipient a follow up pitch – great title, level one opener, key bullets, and a link – even if it’s just to the product listing. This way you’ll command attention and almost guarantee at least a response.
So is the press release dead? Yes and no. Traditional and product PRs will rely on press releases for a long time to come; sending out press packs with a press release are their bread and butter. But digital PR often doesn’t need a press release. A creative, timely idea that tells a story and a stellar elevator email is all you need. In fact, it’s probably preferable. There is, of course, less fluff for a busy newsdesk to read!