Reports of the press release’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

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The web has been all a-Twitter lately.  Jamie and Kyle have both written about it over the past few weeks, and around the bustling halls of EZG today we’ve had some insightful emails about the New Twitter and what it means for us, our clients, and our industry.  What really caught my attention, though, was a recent AdAge post that declares the tweet has killed the press release.

[I]ncreasingly, the news media has a nifty new way of “reporting” entertainment news: regurgitating celebrity tweets. It wasn’t that long ago that a celebrity with something “important” to put out there, like an apology, would automatically say it through a tightly controlled protocol, like a set of engineered sound bites delivered via a well-staged interview. Now 140 characters or fewer suffices.

Lest you think that this is only applicable to the latest B-lister to tweet her photo with Justin Beiber, author Simon Dumenco goes on to argue that “As the celebrity-industrial complex goes, so goes the rest of corporate America.”  Now I’m a big fan of Twitter, but just like video didn’t kill the radio star, I can’t accept his argument that “The long-suffering, much-maligned press release… finally died this summer” at the hands of the microblog.

Just because BP was made to look ridiculous when the fake @BPGlobalPR gushed black comedy gold and ended up with more than 10 times the number of followers the official @BP_America account did, it doesn’t mean that the public is going to turn to it for news.  All it means is that there is a greater appetite for gallows humor than there is for corporate spin.

More than that, the world is a complicated place.  Not everything, or even one thing, can be conveyed in a tweet.  While it’s possible to encapsulate all the germane details of some stories or events into a tweet (e.g. Tom Brady was in a car accident this morning. He’s OK, though.), for plenty of others it’s not only impossible, it’s also illegal.  Many professional and financial service providers are restricted from providing  commentary that can be construed as financial advice.  As a result, while they are increasingly using social media to get their message out, they are treading extremely carefully to avoid a slew of dangers that could  do great harm in both brand and legal terms.

Perhaps the best example of the continued vitality – and need – for press releases is Dumenco’s own post.  If everything that needs to be said can be said in a tweet, why bother writing an entire blog post?  He obviously felt the need to provide background and context necessary for readers to comprehend his post.  If he didn’t then the phrase “The tweet has killed the press release” would not only be sufficient, it is also well under 140 characters.

When the New York Times speculated that Mark Twain had been sent to Davy Jone’s locker, the great American novelist – who was alive and well – promised to “make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public.”

Dumenco predicts that “press releases will probably continue to stumble along, zombie-like, for years to come, because too many PR folks are still heavily invested in grinding them out.”  A better guess is that PR folks worth their weight will continue to combine press releases with appropriate use of Twitter, blogs, social networks, and (gasp!) the telephone and actual face to face meetings… until any or all of these devices cease being helpful to journalists and other audiences.  If press releases are our only means of action, well, color me uncreative.

But in the spirit of Mr. Twain, I’ll make a similar inquiry into the brain eating status of the press release.  If I find it with arms outstretched and ambling forth in legions galore, I’ll be sure to let you know.  I’ll issue a press release.

The above photo by theogeo is used under this creative commons license.

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2 Responses to “Reports of the press release’s demise have been greatly exaggerated”

  1. Larry Marchese Says:

    This is a great column. I wish I could share it to my Twitter account.

  2. Brian Keaney Says:

    Thanks, Larry. Glad you liked it. We’ve added some buttons at the bottom of posts so that you can now email, tweet, and share on Facebook to your heart’s content.

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