Why a press release still matters

Faced with an ever-changing media landscape, public relations professionals have started to question the importance of the industry’s hallmark product – the press release.

The days of simply operating a press office—when the PR department sent its release across a newswire and considered their job ‘done’—ended long ago.  Public relations now conveys messages through a combination of traditional, digital and social platforms.

To buck the trend or not?

In this new environment, certain commentators have questioned whether the press release is still a useful tool for public relations professionals.  They claim that the world has moved toward social media, and journalists are flooded with hundreds of press releases that can’t all be read.

Instead of spending time developing a press release, these PR reformers suggest bucking the format entirely and going straight to individual journalists with a personalised pitch to “cut through the noise”. 

So, why does the press release still matter?

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While journalists should of course be contacted on an individual basis when required, they will still expect to be provided with a press release.  Why? The press release serves as a single credible material source to draw from. It provides key information and quotes from senior spokespeople.

Additionally, no matter how effective you are at networking, or how vast your contact book is, you won’t always be able to individually reach out to every media outlet you need to. 

Under-resourced newsrooms

As newsrooms become smaller and resources become tighter, journalists have less time to monitor their inboxes and engage with incoming stories or interview opportunities.  According to Adweek, today’s journalist spends less than one minute on average reviewing a press release or PR pitch.

Following a conventional press release format allows journalists to quickly analyse the content of your communication.  If you deviate from this format, it may take a journalist precious extra seconds to identify your angle—and this might be the difference between a journalist running your story or not.   

There’s also an argument to suggest the emergence of digital publishing has made press releases more valuable, not less.  In an age of constant breaking news, newsrooms are under more pressure than ever to create new content.  Working from press releases is the most time-efficient way to do this.    

A highly centralised Irish media

In Ireland, a press release is particularly effective.  Due to our relatively small population, journalists receive fewer country-specific press releases than journalists in larger markets like the UK or US. This, of course, means less competition.  

Ireland’s media landscape is also still highly centralised.  In both Ireland and the United States, there’s a daily national newspaper printed for about every ten citizens. In the US, the top ten papers only cover about 24% of all circulated papers; conversely, the top ten newspapers in Ireland cover 99% of the circulation.  When it comes to broadcast news, Ireland has even fewer national outlets than its international peers. 

Given this centralisation and less competitive market, major Irish media outlets continue to operate general news desks that are readily contactable by email.  News desk editors often circulate press releases to journalists on their team. In this scenario, press releases can be easily passed between journalists and editors, unlike a personalised pitch.  Editors appreciate clarity and a clear story, so a release that’s concise and well-written will potentially be shared with many writers.

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In summary

Sending out a press release isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the only way public relations professionals sell their stories. However, it remains a relevant and highly effective tool.

In a media landscape with a growing appetite for more content, a press release is a recognisable and trusted communications format that can be quickly scanned, shared and republished. A release allows journalists to pull quotes and messages from a single credible source, leading to more on-message coverage of your story.