How digital communications expanded the role of the press release

Don’t turn your nose up at press releases. The founder of Media OutReach argues that they still serve an important purpose—now more than ever.
PR Week - 19 Oct 2020
Jennifer Kok, Founder and CEO of Media OutReach
Is the humble press release no longer relevant in today’s digital age?

If anything, the digital era has increased the prominence of press releases and the importance of PR for a variety of reasons which I like to share here. When I meet up with traditional PR agencies—some which have rebranded themselves into social or digital agencies—I would be told that they no longer encourage their clients to use press releases as a tool to communicate with their target audience.

That’s a rather interesting position to take. As a newswire service provider, we have been seeing increased demand from digital and content marketing agencies that are embracing press releases as a key tactic to get their word out for both themselves and their clients.

So, I am certainly bemused by the rejection from certain corners of the PR industry, while at the same time be warmly embraced by new players. The question one should ask is ‘Why?’ Is this because of the lack of understanding the role of the press release? I, for one, am really excited about how the development of digital media has expanded the role of press releases.

They are today no longer just a tool used by PR professionals to communicate with journalists on behalf of an organisation, but are now fulfilling multiple roles.

This fulfilment is growing in tandem with the evolving role of the newswire business model which also provides online news postings for each press releases. Such postings allow the releases to be visible online instantly, and any message that a client wants to communicate can be delivered immediately in verbatim to a worldwide audience.

Needless to say, this is an essential tool in the age of fake news. For organisations who want to improve their digital marketing efforts, press releases offer a viable solution. It can deliver content in various formats, from text content, to multimedia content such as videos and infographics that make the messaging more appealing and easily digestible to readers. Such content can be posted on news sites as well as shared on social media.

We have worked with clients to distribute such content and have seen the increased exposure, from news generated from write-ups by journalists as well as viral postings online and on social media.

With Covid, many physical events cannot be held, and a multimedia press release is one option where PR professionals can maximise exposure of their events. The distribution of press releases together with an accompanying video (in various social formats) provide journalists with options to tell your story in a more visual way. This is one way of achieving dual functions of old and new in one go.

With that in mind, another interesting development is that PR professionals are no longer writing just for journalists when drafting a release. They are now writing for both journalists and search algorithms. Thus, one has to do away with “the company”, “we”, “he”, “she” and so on, replacing them with nouns that are readable by search algorithms.

Many releases I have read still need to improve in this area. The search algorithms trust key words appearing on authentic media. Thus, the high number of authentic media postings provided by the newswire is important as it helps the news release to build organic SEO and improves its search ranking.

Last but not least, I often hear from PR professionals that management is of the opinion that PR is a cost centre as it does not generate sales. Well, in the digital age, this is far from the truth. A press release that has been posted online helps organisations cross borders seamlessly.

How does this contribute? Often I get feedback from clients that they receive sales and investment inquiries from other regions they do not have a presence in. Thanks to the online press release, these new markets are now open to them.

My advise for traditional PR professionals who are trying to embrace social media—do not abandon this press releases but embrace them. The humble press release can be more than just a simple official message as multimedia formats and social media sharing capabilities will make it much more appealing.

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