Press Releases Aren't the only Problem
Shel Holtz adds to the ongoing discussion about the purpose and future of press releases in this post entitled "The press release is dead! Long live the press release!" in which he responds, in part, to Tom Foremski's rant on the subject a few months ago -- "Die Press Release, Die!". In Tom's original screed he states:
Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes. Often they will contain quotes from C-level executives praising their customer focus. They often contain praise from analysts, (who are almost always paid or have a customer relationship.) And so on...
Press releases are created by committees, edited by lawyers, and then sent out at great expense through Businesswire or PRnewswire to reach the digital and physical trash bins of tens of thousands of journalists.
This madness has to end. It is wasted time and effort by hundreds of thousands of professionals.
Shel offers an example of a company Shift Communications, that purports to answer this critique with a new kind of press release. Shel writes:
The release is broken into sections that are easily put to use by busy reporters and editors. First is contact information, followed by a headline and core news facts, preferably in bullet-list format. Then come a link and RSS feed for a “purpose-built” del.icio.us page. This page offers links to “relevant historical, trend, market, product & competitive content sources, providing context as-needed, and, on-going updates.”
So my question, though, is why should we call this new thing a press release? Perhaps a mini-site about a specific news event which becomes a resource for reporters -- but in that vein, why shouldn't it also be a resource for customers?
The core problem of the press release remains the same in any case. Top-spin, meaningless quotes, and poor writing won't change. And the endless spam from companies to reporters, trying to make their news item into the next thing on the cover of (name your publication) isn't going to stop. It isn't just the press release that is a problem -- it is fundamentally the relationship between public relations and the media that needs to change.