News Releases Have Different Value During TAOTSE – The Age of the Search Engine.

Editor’s Note:  This post is in response to a story last week by Richard Berman on about the decline of the value of press releases.  

S.Sobel.featuredBy Scott Sobel, MA Media Psychology

No doubt it is just this side of useless and a waste of money to spray out a pro forma news release to a mass audience.  Our agency does use news releases all of the time to great advantage, however, but we do not use them necessarily in ways they were used before TAOTSE – The Age of the Search Engine … now that the algorithm is king and ubiquitous.

Of course, just putting a release willy-nilly on the web or even e-mailing cold to an unknown reporter has little value unless you are thoughtful in the way the release is fashioned and your targets and follow-up well considered.

The release posting helps the searchability of a topic, can drive all related coverage higher on the search engines, especially when we facilitate linking between web sites and then reposting on all kinds of social media.

Fact is, a release is no longer the primary door opener for journalist interest as it once was but it should be used as one more arrow in the PR persuasion quiver. If the correct key words are dropped-in, the right #tag chosen, the release has a better chance of catching the attention of Subject Matter Experts (SME) bloggers or those reporting a specific news item, and can begin a dialogue that leads to story placements.

Other value. A well-constructed release can be used for background and follow-up information for interested journalists who we do contact directly by an aggressive phone call (avoid leaving the despised voice message) or a personalized e-mail with a powerful subject line.

The call-and-send-a-release strategy is even more valuable when you are pitching a novice desk-assistant or editor who you get interested in a story and then needs something concrete in their hand or in an e-mail to pass to a decision-maker.

We are in the PR trenches and work every day with media outlets like 60 Minutes, ABC News’ Ross Unit, Washington Post, Huffington Post, legal and aviation trades, national radio and every kind of local media outlet – even international news outlets.  Our news releases are part of almost every engagement; the release is not the only tool used, but one that should not be ignored.

So, the release is not dead at all, it is just morphing and being repurposed by smart practitioners.  I was a journalist for 20 years and I still pitch former colleagues and now new contacts with the same kinds of story hooks as I was interested in when I was doing live shots myself or writing for the newspaper. And yes, I was interested in getting information then from news releases, anonymous tips, off the record conversations, carrier pigeon, it didn’t matter as long as I could corroborate the information, the subject lead was compelling and relevant and the release information broke or advanced a storyline.

Good journalists or bloggers today also are interested in getting information from news releases or any other kind of valid source. A news release alone has marginal impact and value, it’s the execution of the release and then the follow-up that makes the difference between the release being tossed or the release igniting a favorable action.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the news release are exaggerated.


About the Author:  Scott Sobel is president of Media & Communications Strategies, Inc., He is also a former major market and TV network investigative journalist with a Media Psychology MA from Touro University Worldwide