Today’s guest post is by Tom Bishop

‘Everyone knows’ content marketing is now the primary method of communicating with the public.

That and Twitter.

Everything an organization, business leader, celebrity, athlete, or political figure has to say about themselves or anything else can be boiled down to 140 characters, right?

Tweets and Facebook posts are now regal declarations – the absolute truth, recorded for posterity to be criticized, repeated, and submitted as evidence should anybody doubt what was said.

So where does that leave the humble news release?

Is the News Release Dead?

Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot, asked the larger question “Is PR Dead?” in 2009. And in the comments, we see a long line of answers (see? statements recorded for posterity) from people who agreed or disagreed with the premise.

But I’m talking about the news release, alone. I’ve been seeing a lot of them that have seemed to morph from the traditional news release form (Headline, Subhead, Dateline, Subject, Quote, Quote, Company Description, Contact) into something more like this blog post, cleverly designed to trick people into reading it.

Like blog posts and infographics, these releases are then used as the baseline for social campaigns and other forms of outreach, as part of a trend called Content PR. But there are reasons that releases and articles for content marketing are different.

  • A content marketing piece is meant to sell something or just offer advice, raise an issue, or tell a story. It’s supposed to engage regular people and attract attention from search engines.
  • The news release is also meant to attract attention from search engines. And very often, sell something.  But it’s also meant to engage a different audience: Journalists.

Web Journalism

But are reporters still sitting there at the city desk waiting for a fax or checking Reuters and AP on their organization’s intranet ? No. They’re using Google and Twitter like the rest of us.

So why do we continue to insist on the traditional news release?

  • For one, they act as the “official statement” of an organization. All other stuff related to the issue or incident is conjecture or the opinionating of random individuals. In fact, that was exactly the reason for the first news release, which was written in 1906 to deliver an organized response to a Pennsylvania Railroad train wreck that killed 50 people. I think it’s telling the second time it was tried, reporters balked at the notion the story could be ‘controlled’ by a company and used as stealth advertising. And the struggle we continue to see today was born.
  • It establishes a timeline. While the origination of a piece of content marketing can easily be obscured, a release clearly states “See? We said this on October 29.” Nobody truly owns the story, but the release makes clear what was ‘officially’ said, and when.
  • It’s front-loaded, which is something we rarely do in content marketing. In the beginning of this article, I opened with a provocative headline and a bunch of short sentences, which are meant to be compelling (please say they were compelling), hoping to draw you into the story, and entice you to read further. But a reporter would never waste time reading. Reporters know that news releases makes the most important points up front and in order.
  • It’s flexible. You don’t have to produce them only as boring old text. Your news release can also be presented as an online video or slide show, along with images. This may not impress reporters, but they’re not the only ones who receive your news anymore.

Besides these reasons above, it is still the centerpiece of any media relations campaign. If you’re practicing sound media relations, journalists will continue to view it as paramount when trying to extrapolate a company’s viewpoint. And that’s why we are still writing them.

Tom Bishop is director of marketing and communications at KnowledgeVision Systems in Lincoln, Mass. He is an experienced marketing professional focused on brand strategy, content marketing, social media, campaign management, market segmentation, research and data analysis, and business development. He brings a great deal of experience in start-up companies that are positioned for rapid growth.