press releases for PRThe press release may need to evolve or die. That’s quite a statement from someone who has strongly supported the use of news releases as a PR tool. But, new research shows that journalists overall hold a dim view of press releases.

About half of journalists surveyed say they do not rely on press releases from newswire services at all, and only 3% rely on them heavily, reveals a survey of 500 journalists by Muck Rack. Yet 31% rely on them somewhat, and another 16% rely on them somewhat but would prefer them in a different format.

Is there hope for press releases? About half the journalists say they would pay more attention to press release with an infographic, 13% with video. But over a third said nothing would make them pay more attention to press releases.

The survey doesn’t differentiate between press releases distributed via newswire services and those send directly from company PR professionals or their PR agencies. The low reliance on press releases could reflect wire services’ lack of targeting capability. Journalists don’t bother viewing releases not relevant to their publication or beat.

Press Releases Evolve

Some PR pros say the press release, at least in the traditional sense, is an obsolete PR tool. Many repackage information once distributed in press releases into new formats such as videos or blog and social media posts. Many PR pros say press releases have gotten a bad name. Press release can be an effective tool if they’re created only when companies have real news to announce, well-written and distributed to relevant publications.

A media monitoring and measurement service can identify brand mentions and gauge the effectiveness of press release and the organization’s overall PR strategy. With the spread of news sharing on social media, it’s now essential to monitor social media.

While professional journalists may ignore most press releases, news releases are often reproduced with little change by websites that are non-traditional news publishers such as blogs and publishers of expert analysis and opinion such as Business2Community. Pick-up of news releases or content marketing materials by these types of sites can increase the reach/viewership of the release’s content. With these placements, news releases retain significant value. The company issuing the release, however, may have to search out appropriate blogs and send the release directly to them since the commercial press release distribution services may not reach them.

Some of the larger press release distribution services have arranged for automatic publication of its releases in traditional publications. The PR distribution services report these placements to their clients. Unfortunately, while the release appears on the website, in most cases a visitor to the site can’t access the release through the site’s menu structure. It exists on the site, but isn’t accessible to typical visitors or to most robots including media measurement services. The releases can usually be accessed through keyword search for at least a few days after publication.

Greater Emphasis on Social Media

The Muck Rack survey highlights the increased attention to social media by journalists:

  • More than 41% of journalists consider the potential “share-ability” of a story when deciding what to write about.
  • 63% of journalists in the U.S. and 68% of journalists worldwide track how many times their stories are shared on social media
  • More than one-third (34%) go to social media as their “first” source of news: 27% choose Twitter as their primary network.
  • As Instagram becomes more popular, Facebook falters: 37% of journalists say they plan to spend more time on Instagram this year; 44% say they expect to spend less time on Facebook this year.

Data & Analytics

The survey reveals mixed feelings about data and analytics. Many journalists (52% in the US and 43% of those overseas) say data and analytics are used to track how well their stories perform on social media. Yet only roughly a third say that data analytics “increasingly influence” what kinds of stories they cover.

Almost a quarter (72%) feel that data and analytics have “impacted their job and profession, and only 35% say they help them do their jobs better.

Bottom Line: Although most journalists say they don’t read press releases, a significant portion relies on them at least somewhat, according to a new survey of journalists. The results may reignite the debate over the PR benefits of press releases. Whatever your opinion of press releases, media success can be achieved by targeting relevant publications and quantifying the effectiveness of PR strategies through media monitoring and measurement.