We’ve seen some playful posts around the web in the last few months alleging the press release, as we know it, is dead … of course, it’s not!

This is because perpetrators of social-sharing-geared posts with headlines such as ‘The Press Release is Dead’ and ‘The End of the Press Release?’ focus on factors related to consumer, rather than media targets.

One PR account director tweeted in response to the PR Week article that the press release’s death had, by then, been proclaimed “for the 6,327th time”…

As any professional PR, Comms or Marketing person knows, press releases were and are releases to the press – not consumers.

They are supposed to contain an important message from an individual or company designed for journalists to interpret and refashion: either to add to an existing story on a related subject or for a unique story, based on the message in their release.

Google’s much-discussed recent updates to its search algorithms seek to play down, or in some cases, penalise online press releases geared to rank in top positions for consumer search results, where their searchers are often looking for something else.

Some commentators struggle to grasp exactly what search engine providers’ problems are with online press releases … ‘The Press Release is Dead’ article says: “Google itself has said that it’s discounting content that you pay to distribute” … but that’s not right.

Google couldn’t care less if you pay a distributor with a Media Contacts Database to issue a press release on your behalf; where that distributor selects group of journalists from their database, builds a targeted press list and sends that press release to those contacts via email/twitter.

The search engine’s beef is over the online publication of press releases by ‘sloppy syndication’ across the web, handing them the job of determining the value of the messages in those press release to its searchers, given the releases have been replicated word-for-word across unvisited sections of a vast network of irrelevant websites that most search engines have precious little respect for.

Knowing this, why do distributors continue to syndicate customers’ press releases in this way, when they’ve seen that search engines have moved their algorithms to demote such releases in results and punish links within them for trying to game the system with 10-year-old SEO tactics?

In short, because they want to ‘show’ their customers’ releases are being ‘picked-up’ … hoodwinking both ‘have-a-go press release writers’ and communications professionals alike, into believing their releases are having the desired effect of obtaining real media coverage, which of course, they haven’t.

Replicating press releases across networks of websites distributors have annual deals with: posting them to obscure sections of a couple of major news sites (where they then can’t be found or navigated to from their index pages) and then further thrown across a plethora of parochial sites based in US backwaters, has definitely had its day…

But this is not the death of the press release, it’s the birth of a new era of information dissemination, screaming out for good-quality, relevant and newsworthy content.

Online-only distribution has, as such, become counterproductive for public relations agencies and corporate communications professionals, whose first target is and always has been journalists and not consumers…

Since when did consumers read press releases? And how many times have you seen your Friend Feed on Facebook showing a press release from a distributor’s website — and how many times have you seen news stories being shared. The answers are surely never, and at least once a day.

But continuing to send releases out in this backwards way makes distributors money… so as long as people keep using their outdated and untargeted services, they’ll continue providing them.

Some of the biggest distributors who are failing to evolve to the next level of press release distribution were dealt a huge blow last year when their other golden goose, corporate disclosure, found a long-held pre-requisite of corporates having to divulge important company information via their newswires had shifted to allow businesses to make such announcements for free, using social media.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission announced last year that social media would be considered valid for corporate disclosures and Bloomberg quickly followed, saying it was going to integrate twitter feeds into its trading terminals.

A substantial proportion of releases put out by distributors such as Businesswire and PR Newswire have traditionally been these types of disclosure messages. Regardless, distributors like these are still offered to companies as part of a joining package when listing on the New York Stock Exchange.

Despite the pitfalls, press releases remain essential to getting the story and facts of a message you want to put out there, straight … before anyone outside your camp sees it.

They can be passed between departments, honed, refined, approved by clients, added to by researchers and financial directors and verified in-house.

This chain of custody provides an essential paper trail for external PR companies who must report back to clients or in-house Comms staff reporting to a Board of Directors, whether the release is written for just one journalist, exclusively, or for a whole category of the news industry.

Released in a presentable form that allows a journalist to see exactly what the producer of the release wants them to (as well as supplying contact details, links to resources such as imagery and multimedia, so they don’t have to come back and ask for it) saves journalists valuable time that they’ll thank you for. Make a press release comprehensively easy for a journalist to use, and half the battle is won.

PR Week itself recently said, if the press release is: “a method of providing tailor-made content to journalists” … “then that is still very much in demand by an increasingly beleaguered media industry.”

But, the final word goes to ‘Tim D’ who posted the following comment off the back of the Death of the Press Release piece: “The press release and the means to distribute them have evolved. The press release is not dead. Today, distribution requires as much strategy as the release.” 

That’s why our Media Contacts Database, considered Distribution network and Press Release Tracking system provides what we believe to be the ultimate PR software solution, as well as the best and most powerful news dissemination system in the industry today.

Contact us, to find out more.

By Richard Powell, Presswire.