Mike Butcher, Editor at Large at TechCrunch, certainly seemed to think so back in June of 2015, passionately noting that “mostly, ‘press releases’ are written in the way a PR’s client would write a news story. They are usually pretty rambling and designed to please the client (read: stroke their ego) rather than assist the journalist to get s*** done, and fast. So, I think the press release format is DEAD”.
A bit later in December of that year, Robleh Jama pitched in with a similar announcement of the death of the beloved press releases. This July, Forbes’ John Rampton came out with a more balanced take on the pros and cons of press releases, pointing out that while easy and inexpensive, the impact of press releases is difficult to measure, they don’t offer brands a way to communicate with customers, and their publication does not guarantee views (even if it was published on Forbes!). Also this year, Forbes once again questioned the status of the press releases in Marian Salzman’s ‘Is The Press Release Dead or Alive?’
Scarily, we may never be able to answer this question, given that at the very least the discussion over the life and death of press releases is merrily chugging along. So now we have something we can call the Schrodinger’s Press Release – at the same time a wonderfully effective marketing tool and a relic of a bygone era, not unlike the noble dinosaur.
Today, I would like to suggest a new take on press releases. Now, you can check out the advantages of the press release in some of the great articles mentioned here, but let’s be real – the format is mostly DEAD, to borrow emphasis from Mr. Butcher, in the traditional sense. In most of these discussions, authors tend to reach a similar conclusion – that what’s most important for marketers these days is building a brand story with PR, a narrative that engages the consumer. This is what I want to focus on today and expand with one particular method that takes the humble press release and transforms it into something much more interesting: influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is a very hip and effective method to create buzz and generate sales, as $1 invested yields an average of $7 return. Why does it work? Because these days consumers are focused on authenticity as well as entertainment. They don’t want to be sold something in a plain ad, which is both boring and doesn’t inspire any relatability or trust (after all, 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations over brand sources). Millennials especially define this trend, as 85% note they want brands to be more authentic and engaged with consumers.
But how can brands engage these influencers? This is where the press release finds new life as part of a brand ‘pitch’ to bloggers. Once brands have identified relevant influencers they want to be part of their campaign, they need an effective way to grab their attention and show their product to be worth investing time in. It is here that the press release (or ‘blogs release’, if you will) finds new life. All the usual press release tips (catchy headline, good image, concise description, etc.) become relevant again in a less rigid and more modern form.
Do you agree? Is the format a sign of a bygone era and needs to be retired in favor of a more direct and relevant approach? Are you a defender of the press release as a key tool for journalists and brands to receive and distribute information? Or is it really getting a new life in the world of influencer marketing? Let the debates begin!