It’s adapted to change, but the simple news release –- a form born more than a century ago – remains a well-used vehicle in today’s cyberscape. According to the 2019 Global State of the Media report by Cision, a leading provider of communications software and services, 71 percent of journalists still depend on formal, prepared announcements.
The first press release was reportedly written by Ivy Lee, a former reporter, in 1906 about an accident on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Lee proactively covered the story, putting the details of the incident into a prepared statement for the media. More than 100 years later, and one of the primary uses of press releases remains unchanged from that first use: sharing facts with the media.
Additionally, in age where almost anyone has the ability to say almost anything to the world, public relations tools remain as important as ever in shaping the messages companies put out into the public sphere.
This makes communication easier in some ways, harder in others.
“The prohibitive cost combined with the limited wire services and news outlets back in the day meant less noise overall for the media,” a Forbes analysis says. ”In other words, it used to be much easier for your message to stand out, and to get noticed and picked up by the media.”
It’s certainly true that it can be more challenging these days to make your message stand out, and this often leads brands and PR pros to try and grab reporters’ attention with flashy language and stunts. But, despite the flash going on around it, the basic news release remains an essential communications tool. Here are some reasons why:
Revelation and Relevance:
Though they’d like more information tailored to target audiences without jargon, Cision reports, journalists still see press releases as important go-to references. On their own, releases don’t often generate interviews or feature coverage – but, they still help reporters greatly, providing initial basic facts in one place, for easy reference.
In Your Own Words, for the Record:
Though specific language is typically rewritten by reporters, a press release remains the voice of a company or organization, putting news and history in official context. A release lets a company control its message with specific information, quotes, positioning, etc. For example, releases can be written to assure stakeholders of a company’s strengths, such as hiring and profits. Or, another example, a release can emphasize particular features of a new product being released. A company can also post its release (or information drawn from it) on its own social media accounts or a blog on the company site, to communicate news directly with its audience, in its own voice, and with its own positioning.
Search Engine Optimization:
An important aspect of news releases posted online or sent over a newswire involves well-placed search terms, keywords and links. By paying proper attention to these details, a release can be used as a part of an organization’s SEO efforts, helping to boost search rankings and online visibility.
The value of press releases has been debated in the PR industry for years – and it probably will be for years to come. There are more ways than have ever existed before for companies to share their news, and the press release is just one tool. But, the value it provides to reporters – combined with the power it offers to control your own message – are key reasons why we at 418 Communications believe the press release is here to stay.