who readsIs it time to ditch the press release? That’s the question posted in a blog post titled, “Five Ways to Ditch the Press Release and Actually Reach Your Audience,” published earlier this week on Social Media Explorer.

Unsurprisingly, the short answer in my mind is “No.” Of course, you’d expect me to say that – after all, I’m a newswire veteran, and am in the marketing department here at PR Newswire, the industry’s largest newswire service. But before you dismiss me as being entirely self-interested, consider these facts:

  • Press releases on PRNewswire.com garner millions of reads each month, and more than 60% of those find the content directly via search engines;
  • Journalists registered for PR Newswire for Journalists tally more than one million news release reads each month
  • Press releases are shared multiple times a minute on social networks.
  • More than 10,000 web sites worldwide repost news releases issued by PR Newswire.

Is this a tactic worth ditching? No.

In truth, I agree in principle with just about everything author Maggie Patterson suggests – regular readers will know that tactics such as surfacing and sharing specific key messages, utilizing a variety of multimedia elements to illustrate (and enliven) a story and making copious use of supporting blog posts are all tactics we denizens of PR Newswire advocate.

A problem does crop up, however, with the post’s assertion, “The goal of a press releases is to secure media coverage.” My colleague Sandra Azzollini, who oversees PR Newswire’s web site as our vice president of online communities, has a different take.

“What is the purpose of a press release? It’s not to get people to read the press release,” she asserts. “It’s to sell a product, stock or image. A press release is a vehicle to complete that transaction, whatever your campaign goal may be.”

In reality, organizations are issuing news releases over commercial newswire services like PR Newswire to achieve a variety of objectives, including:

  • Increasing traffic to a web site or landing page;
  • Promoting direct audience actions, such as event registration, downloads of an app or white paper and product purchases ;
  • Seed the social web with key messaging ;
  • Positioning the organization or one of its experts as a thought leader or industry source; and
  • Distributing or driving attention to marketing content, such as infographics, blog posts and videos.

Press releases, once an exclusive means of communicating with professional media, are now the domain of the public, who seek out, trust and share news content. And therein is an imperative for communicators: the content we produce – including press releases – needs to be written with the audience in mind, and designed to appeal to them. The messages need to be clear, focused and provide a compelling call to action for readers. Before one ditches this tried-and-true tactic, the content that the organization has published warrants a close look. In reality, publishing boring content that appeals to no one is the tactic that should fall by the wayside.

Refresh your press releases with these new school press release tactics — this free ebook has lots of ideas and examples that inspire. eBook: New School PR Tactics