Press Releases Still Matter

As I enter into my 26th year of working in the public relations industry I’ve thought of all the changes that have occurred since I started out as an Assistant Publicity Director at Yonkers Raceway in New York back in the spring of 1985. The fax machine that allowed us to send information directly to news desks; the word processors that served as computers and allowed me to file a story to at the time, was called a wire room at a newspaper; and the clunky shoe-sized hand grenades we called cell phones back in the mid-eighties, which kept us connected to the office.

Of course, nothing has changed the industry more than the advent of social media. From the birth of email to today’s Facebook and Twitter, mobile and smart phone applications, the communications industry has adapted to and utilized every new tool at its disposal. However, despite all of the evolutionary developments over the years, one tool that has remained constant is the press release.

Many will argue that press releases are archaic and serve no purpose in today’s world of 140 character tweets, but I disagree. The press release, written the way it’s always meant to be, as a vehicle to deliver the who, what, where and when of your client project or event, can be delivered across numerous platforms and provide the information needed by media and consumers alike to learn about the program you are charged with publicizing.

Assignment desk producers, feature editors and other decision-makers at news outlets still ask for a press release. They even seek you out, based on the information you provide in the release. I know this is true, because I’ve experienced it a number of times over the past few months here at iMedia Public Relations following the issuance of a press release on behalf of a client. Most recently, I received a call this week from a producer at WCBS-TV in New York, responding to a press release I had put out prior to the holidays on behalf of the Association of NJ Chiropractors. The release focused on the dangers of being injured while playing video games like the Wii.

The producer called me after reading the release on Twitter, off of a link I had posted. Thus, the old school method of creating a press release, distributing it and then repurposing it for social media placement turned into a potential news segment with a major television news affiliate.

What was essential when I started in 1985 and still is essential now is that if you craft a press release for a business, event or other project, make sure it has news value. Too often in my career, I’ve had to talk clients out of issuing a self-gratuitous type release. Make sure there is a news hook to what you are writing. If so, it will generate the effect you desire, awareness and coverage for your client. If done right, that one press release can serve multiple outlets and be tweeted, posted on a Facebook wall, picked up by bloggers and read by a news producer at a major affiliate.

The press release is like a Craftsman tool purchased at Sears. Once you use it, it will last forever.

Tom Cosentino

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