Why Bad Press Releases Harm the PR Profession…and its’ Clients

It happened again in a meeting last week. Someone mentioned the dreaded phrase.

I felt itchy and sort of annoyed, the way you do when you’re beginning to get sick. But I wasn’t. I was just having my typical reaction to the words “press release.”

Historically, B2B press releases have been developed to announce some form of news, from significant executive “hires” to major business transactions to the results of a proprietary study. Most of the time, these are still logical reasons to consider writing a press release.

Unfortunately, business to business companies often use press releases to announce their news-that-isn’t-really-news. I bet you’ve seen an example or two of that. We’ve been asked to write releases about minor product upgrades, new vendor relationships, reactions to competitor moves, new methodologies (without proof points) or even to “rehash” an industry conference.

Let’s be honest. That’s not news – it’s turning your marketing to-do list into a series of announcements.

No wonder reporters are so cynical about internal and external PR professionals. And that cynicism is likely to increase as PR 2.0 continues to evolve.

Now the media has more opportunities to question your company’s marketing motives and intentions: company blogs, guest posts, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter updates and, yes, social media news releases, are all ripe for criticism.

Simply put, the digital PR environment requires companies to refocus on 1) developing the right content for 2) the right vehicle.

Here are the questions I try to ask to clients determine if a press release is appropriate:

  1. Is the news significant? Rate it on a scale of 1-10. Everything below an “8” is not worthy of a release.
  2. What is our objective in announcing this news? Could it still be achieved without a press release? For example, would offering an “exclusive” to a journalist be an acceptable substitute?
  3. Can we tie our news to other stories that are already being reported on? Do we have a chance of becoming part of as trend? If the answer is yes, we may only need a good media “pitch, not a release.
  4. Is it unique? Is it news that only the company can share? (Ahem, this still does not mean we should issue a press release.)
  5. Given our current projects, do we have the team bandwidth to focus on this? Press releases are notorious “time sucks” that require multiple edits and authors. The worst part? All those “cooks in the kitchen” produce a very weak, diluted broth.

There is still a place for press releases in your PR toolkit. But I hope you’ll consider using it much less often. You don’t need it to make your news – and content – shine.

Now you know that I believe there are few reasons to write press releases anymore. When do you think it makes sense?

Photo by Tom (hmm a rosa tint)

To reach Elizabeth:

Phone: 212.840.0017
Email: elizabeth@blisspr.com
Twitter: @elizabethsosnow
LinkedIn: Elizabeth Sosnow