The Dual Future of the News Release

IStock_000007373228XSmallRight now the battle (such as it is) in the PR world is between the “Social Media Release” and the boring, text-only, narrative and puffed-up “Traditional News Release.”

It’s the wrong battle to obsess over.

First off, the Social Media Release will win-out over the Traditional version.  I’m not just saying that cuz I invented the Social Media Release, it’s simply a matter of evolution. 

As the multimedia Web and Social Media grow in importance, the SMR format will become more popular.  And with a recent Nielsen study suggesting that Social Media is a bigger driver of Web traffic than EMAIL or SEARCH — well, c’mon.  The SMR will eventually win out.

Still, there are other dynamics at work.  I foresee a fork in the road of the News Release’s evolution.

Down one path?  The SMR.  Services like Pitchengine are doing a superior job of atomizing the press release elements so that readers can find, use and share them (or bits of them, e.g., the “twitpitch”) just as they like.  Meanwhile, my personal programming hero Shannon Whitley is continuing his promising work with the IABC on a technical standard for SMRs, applicable to all the wire services.

The OTHER path?

The mainstream media is in rapid decline.  With ever-diminishing outlets for distribution/publication of their news, corporations are increasingly turning to Content Marketing principles.  In other words, they are publishing their own stuff.  To heck with the media.  Increasingly, that stuff won’t just be video and podcasts, etc., but will also include WELL-WRITTEN news copy about their latest offerings.

The good news about this trend is that the overstuffed press releases of yore will slowly go the way of the dodo.  The bad news is that it could get harder to differentiate between news announcements and “advertorial” copy. 

You’ll either see bulletized, atomized, media-choked releases or deftly written newsy narratives that seem as if they were drafted by a professional journalist.

— Which could well happen, as my friend David Meerman Scott and The Conversation Agent herself, the lovely Valeria Maltoni, wrote recently.  (Both did so quite eloquently, too, so please go visit their sites if you’re intrigued by this concept!)

What do you think?  How much longer will the Traditional Release survive?

Posted on: May 5, 2009 at 8:23 am By Todd Defren
38 Responses to “The Dual Future of the News Release”


  • Lucy says:

    Hi Todd,

    I would love to ask you some questions about the progress and future of Social Media Releases. Would it suit you if I send a few (!) questions through? If you were fine with this I would be keen to publish this as an article to my site.

    Let me know if you have any questions.



  • What frustrates me is that the wire services are overcharging our agencies/clients for the SMR causing us to use the SMR less and less. It is annoying when a SMR is PERFECT for an announcement but the client can’t cover the added costs…

    Get with the program wire services!!

  • The disconnect that I see with most enterprise-driven SM is that it’s typically delivered one-way – the “hey look, over here, buy this!” approach. That’s been the driver for most press release campaigns, too – not that sales, or attention, is a bad thing, mind you. It’s the approach that’s a clunker.

    Now that business can speak directly to its customers, given the erosion of mainstream media outlets that formerly served as gatekeepers, they’ve got to acquire some communication savvy. News stories are called “stories” for a reason – a great story won’t be a laundry list of features and benefits.

    Sadly, having a voice doesn’t mean anyone’s listening. That’s the challenge now – and when that Google app that Lyle Closs alludes to comes down the pipe, I’m in!

  • Todd is right, here’s why.

    The format of a press release was designed to be republished and easily typeset into print publication. It was the “plug-and-play” of its day, more than 100 years ago. To utilize social media, PR practitioners must rethink the process, not squeeze old tech into new tech.

    The biggest misconception by people today is that you can make a press release social by adding a video or some sharing links and that’s missing the mark completely. Those who understand social media know that it’s not another “channel” to send stuff to. It’s a new way of communicating which requires new context. To share directly with our brand’s influencers, which can include consumers, bloggers and journalists, we must talk with them, not at them. So, the content we provide needs to be framed differently for the social web.

    A press release cannot be dual purpose, which is why I believe the press releases days are numbered, even for over regulated, publicly traded companies. We don’t communicate in heavy-text word documents anymore, we communicate in text messages, tweets and other more efficient technologies.

  • SMR services like Pressitt and Pitch Engine are free alternatives to often expensive newswire services. They are my preferred way of stimulating online conversation around your news. SMRs can be packaged up in on neat capsule, giving your viewer all the info they need to re-publish your news. It’s the way forward!

  • People get used to reading news in a certain style. It’s called habit. That is the driver, not whether the new format in social media is far more friendly or not.
    But yet in the long run run social media reports will drive out the traditional releases because the number of people used to these traditional releases will decrease.
    Further devices like Kindle are going to make things easier for social media marketers and releases.

  • Paul Krupin says:

    Lots of excitement and interesting points. I don’t believe that SM is all that earthshaking or special or that it will replace every other MarCom method out there. I still see that prime media matters a lot to clients. They want results and if SM can help produce results that’s fine.

    To me, the SM news release is just the newest format change to come along. The technology you use is a factor because it influences the format of your message.

    But it’s secondary to learning and proving that the words you place in that MarCom format are indeed words that will produce the action you want whether it be sales, attendance at an event, donations, name recognition, or political action.

    Just because you use SM as a way to transmit the message won’t help you if what you place in the SM news release is boring, text heavy, laden with hype or simply is commercial advertising.

    The biggest challenge is to figure out what you can say and do to really turn people on in the first place.

    That’s what I focus on when i work with clients. That’s because unless you say something or write something that will turn people on, nothing you do with your message will matter.

    My belief is that the technology doesn’t matter at all until you learn how to talk so people will listen and act. That’s true even no matter what people read, watch or listen to.

    We live in a world where most people have serious attention deficit disorders most of the time. They are under so much stress it takes extraordinary communications skill to communicate meaningfully.

    It even more critical when people base their decisions on snippets, slices, blinks and tweets.

    Of course, once you do create galvanizing messages, then you can use all the conventional news release, online Internet and SM technologies as a force multiplier to spread the message and duplicate the action you get.

    Paul Krupin Direct Contact PR
    author of the new book Trash Proof: Creating MarCom That Really Works

  • Janet Hansen says:

    Well put, Bill. I think we have seen the decline of fact-based journalism for quite some time…maybe some just didn’t realize it. Where do we get really, really good examples of SMNR? I mean several examples to set an example. If we want to stand out we’ve got to be leaders of the medium and I want the job!

  • mkokc says:

    I agree that the traditional news release is still valuable for a couple of reasons. First off, there’s something to be said of the value reporters and editors put into having something they can hold onto, easier throw on someone’s desk and be able to digest without much effort. Second, in the days of declining mainstream media, from the small weekly to the major metro, these releases will more and more be seen as a daily life preserver. Need a story idea or some kind of “content” before deadline? Well-written, relevant (can’t stress that enough) press release to the rescue!
    The more savvy and forward thinking newsrooms will see the value of attached audio and b-roll, but when it comes down to it, simple is as simple does.

  • I think the traditional release will survive much longer than you would like and I fear the advertorial path could be detrimental to PR as a profession. Many already fight daily battles with marketing departments and executives to keep fluff out of releases that are supposed to be about news.

    And, problems I noted last October in a post titled “Social Media Press Releases Gone Wild” still exist, unfortunately. I still see PR professionals who view social media as simply the outlet for minor versus major news. They send releases out without any multimedia elements, but feel they have created social media press releases just by putting bullets in front of long paragraphs they wrote in a traditional press release fashion.

    It’s going to be a long road of education to change mindsets and retrain PR professionals on how to best leverage social media to deliver their messages to the right audience. As a long-time IABC member, I have to say I’m glad to see Shannon working with the organization to help with that and look forward to seeing the results.

  • Thanks for the informative post. I’m not completely sold on SM Press Releases. Why not get press for your article, than distribute that out to Social media? This gives it a credible source ie: the journalist and then you can distribute it grassroots style.

    Maybe SM Press Releases are a good way to get picked up by news stations, i’m just not so sure.

    In any event, leaving social links is KEY. I like how they are all included in your SM PR template.

  • Because of all the factors listed here I’ve found myself using fewer and fewer press releases in my programs, and stressing my clients use a more conversational method in their communication programs. It’s working for me but many others still prefer what they know. It’s more comfortable than the unknown. I think we’ll have to look at a mix for a while.

  • Rob Longert says:

    It comes down to what clients are comfortable doing. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, a client may still want to put out traditional releases, but pulling stats from Nielsen, as you’ve done, says it all.

    Even traditional releases have links, tags, etc… right now, but the additions of video, links to social networking sites etc… can help spread a message in a grassroots way.

    Clients must learn to monitor and engage in the conversations that are already out there about them, and take part as opposed to pushing it down the throats of their audiences with “their spin.”

    The social media release is also a lot friendlier to non-journos and consumers who may just want to view the release for the content.

    • Tom Allinder says:

      Rob, absolutely. Its is more about clients “unlearning” first. That is the biggest challenge I face. The days of “message pushing” are dead and they don’t realize it. I talk to them til blue in the face…

  • Jamie Bull says:

    My short answer is that the traditional release, and the habit of issuing press anouncements just for the sake of sending anything out to the media isn’t going away nearly as fast as it should be.

    Most companies won’t perk up and seriously question traditional communications methods until their competition starts changing their ways and eats their lunch. It is inevitable that things will change, but I’m clearly not holding my breath.

  • You’re so right about the social media news release being the way of the future. It’s a matter of when, not if. It will happen and probably sooner than we think. But while agency folks have generally jumped on the bandwagon, many clients have not. We pitch social media news releases and newsrooms for almost every project but some clients are still reluctant to put themselves out there.

  • Lyle Closs says:

    I was in a pitch recently to the European team of a big US corporation where one of the prospective clients said ‘OK, that creative Social Media stuff looks great, but how does that translate into media coverage?’.
    Seems some parts of the PR business are still seeing the clip reports as the core deliverable. They’ll get it one day I guess.
    Services like Meltwater are moving us in the right direction, but it seems to me that what we are lacking is that great tool that measures, in unambiguous detail, where our clients (or our businesses) are within the Conversation.
    When the right tool comes along (and surely Google has it in the works?) then we can dump the clippings agency, stop producing masses of useless clip reports, forget the term ‘thud value’ and send our clients a daily link that shows how we are helping them change the Conversation and impacting their business sucess every day.
    I know there are plenty of tools out there, I just haven’t seen any that will convince that prospect to drop her reliance on old-time clips.

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