July 31st, 2009 by Lloyd Gofton
The age old argument that begins â€˜the trouble with press releases’ has come to the fore again this week. The main cause has been a journalism.co.uk article that offered a crowdsourced guide to writing the perfect press release for journalists. This also sparked off a number of conversations on Twitter.
The journalism.co.uk article made complete sense, and I agree with the advice offered in it, or at least 95% of it, but the most depressing thing is that we as an industry (the PR industry) are still making the same old mistakes. To be honest most of the advice could have come from a training session I was given on press release writing in my first month at a PR agency many moons ago. I’m not trying to belittle the advice that was given, it’s just depressing that the same old issues keep coming up.
Looking beyond the usual press release clashes between journalists and PRs, I think there are wider issues that need to be considered. Firstly, in my experience it’s usually the client that demands less than newsworthy releases, and yes PRs should be firmer in their consultancy, but as anyone who has been on agency side will know, that’s not always possible. Secondly, and again in my experience, when talking to a journalist about a story I have, on a number of occasions, been asked â€˜is there a release on this?’ which is slightly frustrating when we’re trying to take a more personalised approach. That’s not to say all journalists do this, but again we all know there are some.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is nothing more I would like than to kill off the traditional release, and I think many PRs that I have spoken to would agree. They can be dull marketing documents that serve very little purpose and the good ones are vastly outweighed by the bad ones.
So what do we do? We need to convey the information in a relevant, accessible and useful way, but without the fluff and spin. Well this is a question we at Liberate Media have been tussling with since day one, and as many of you will know we’ve launched an alternative in the form of a social media news release platform called â€˜Pressitt‘. This was originally developed as we couldn’t find a distribution service that suited our requirements, but as it evolved we felt it should be shared and we plan to work with the industry to build a service that is flexible and relevant in a social media environment, as well as a more traditional news environment.
Please don’t think this post is meant as a promotion for Pressitt, it’s not supposed to be. We don’t charge for Pressitt releases, as we believe social tools should be free. But my point is, yes, PRs, journalists and clients are cheesed off with press releases, some are trying to change that by good practise in communicating stories and obeying advice as set out in the journalism.co.uk article. Others are doing something about it by developing new methods of news distribution. However, it seems too many are still doing nothing. Wake up time is long overdue.