The press release isn't even pining for the fjords….

The beauty of the Internet is that everyone can be a prophet.  Whether you agree or disagree with someone’s opinion, they have the right to profess it.

One of the PR memes that one regularly comes across on the Interweb, as we business folks sometimes call it, is the impending death of the poor, unloved, unappreciated press release.

This bastion of media relations, which has quietly done its job since the advent of modern PR, has been abused, taunted and consigned to the scrap heap more times than I care to mention.

But for all the consternation, and the talk of new eras in communication, it remains a key piece of PR collateral, an instrument of information.  The humble press release doesn’t complain, it just does its job.

Now before you all ready your knives for the comments section, I am all too aware of the drawbacks of a press release.  I am also very aware (without the need to purchase a book) of alternative approaches to the press release, but I  believe that the low-tech press release still has a future.

This post was inspired by Shel Holtz a long-time Internet PR practitioner who shares my belief that the humble press release still serves a useful purpose:

Press releases should be written for the press. The fact that they appear elsehwere is incidental. How much trouble would it be to add something like this to the press release boilerplate: �This release was written for the press. A consumer news release on this topic is available at…�

None of which suggests that company executives shouldn�t blog. Opening a channel of communcation between an organization�s leadership and key external audiences is one of the best business uses of blogs. But it doesn�t eliminate the need for press releases any more than the introduction of e-mail eliminated the need for telephones and faxes. 

You see in this new era of communication, with its information overload, its ‘new new thing’ mentality, one tenet of successful communications remains constant.  The starting point for every single successful communication program begins with the audience. 

Who are we trying to communicate with and what is the best way to do so.

When you start a web site project you start by getting an understanding for who will be visiting the site and what information will they want, what format will they expect it in etc..  These are the key starting points.

I give a lot of lectures on the ‘new media’ every year and while I cover all the new notable developments such as blogs, RSS, podcasts etc., I always make a point of stressing the continued importance of traditional tools and techniques.

For example, Blogs provide a fantastic channel for companies to engage in 1-to-1 communication with their audience, and to provide that audience with a new side of the organization – to foster a conversation if you will.

However, if I am looking to purchase a computer, while a corporate blog is a worthhile addition to the manufacturer’s site, I will also want to look at features, specifications, pricing details, service offerings etc.  In summary I’ll want your typical product page.

Similarly, press releases provide a well understood means of official communication for an individual or organization. If you are looking for the latest news you will seek the press release.  Furthermore for statutory reasons press releases are an essential record of a company’s performance and history.

There is nothing to stop you using blogs to supplement the press release.  In fact we now have a wide array of tools for targeting our audiences including webcasts, web pages, telephones, face-to-face briefings, blogs, bloggers, RSS, e-mail, instant messaging, bulletin boards, mailing lists and intranets.  But that doesn’t negate the need for a press release.

A competent PR professional will use the best tools at their disposal to successfully communicate with an audience. 

In the unlikely event that you think I am some sort of luddite, I should mention that I pitched my first blog over three years ago this week. I have added blogs as a core tool in most of my communications programs, but I still use press releases and they still provide a useful tool.  By all means embrace the ‘new new thing’, but never forget the basics of good PR practice, they are a timeless essential.