value of news releasesWhy does the press release, a traditional pillar of public relations, remain under constant attack?

Relentless assaults on the press release result from the proliferation of digital marketers who attempt to differentiate themselves and expand their services into PR, asserts Tim O’Brien of O’Brien Communications in a new blog post.

They attempt to tear down traditional PR practices to build themselves up, offering slogans such as: “This is not your father’s PR, anymore.” They seek to create the perception that they offer something new, even though their services often mimic the services PR pros have offered for years, O’Brien says.

Some digital marketing agencies criticize press releases and PR merely to promote the next new thing in marketing that they are selling. Although they certainly aren’t selling “snake oil,” they almost certainly are courting danger. Abandoning proven marketing and PR techniques while choosing to implement untested new marketing approaches as the core strategy will surely hurt marketing results. Better to retain proven PR and marketing techniques such as press releases while using a “toe in the water” approach on newer digital and social media marketing methods. (Conversely, refusing to embrace social media and other digital marketing techniques can squelch opportunities and hamper growth.)

“The next time someone tells you all of the proven PR rules and proven PR practices, such as press releases, no longer apply, consider the source,” O’Brien warns. “And consider the possibility that you are talking to someone light on public relations experience and with little historical PR knowledge.”

Press Release Myths Debunked

O’Brien cites – and debunks — eight myths the “PR pretenders” create in order to expand their digital marketing businesses into PR. Here’s a sampling.

Myth: Press releases are only for major news media. Fact: PR distributes press releases to a full range of media, analysts, regulators and others to notify them of major events.

Myth: Press releases aren’t for building relationships. Fact: Because press releases provide, in one place, key details of a particular development, they can spark further discussions, meetings and interviews, which trigger new relationships and re-ignite old ones.

Myth: Nobody reads press releases because they’re boring. Fact: Poorly written press releases may be boring, but capable PR pros write about new developments in a journalistic style. Their releases are timely, relevant and newsworthy.

Other PR veterans agree that press releases remain valuable weapons in the PR arsenal.

“Press releases provide factual, direct information to a maximum number of media covering your company, customers and market,” states Aidan Griffin, senior account executive at the Ketner Group. “Press release distribution, whether over the wire or to a select list of relevant media, gives your company a formal touchpoint with media who are consistently challenged to keep your company top of mind.”

Not Just for Media Outlets

In addition, PR can share news releases on social media, distribute them to bloggers and other influencers interested in the company’s niche, and post them on company blogs and websites, which can lead to top billing on Google News.

To gain the full value of press releases, it’s essential to follow media relations best practices for crafting and distributing news releases and monitoring and measuring their effectiveness. That entails composing compelling yet accurate headlines and succinct copy, conducting a targeted media outreach campaign, and including images or other visual content. A media monitoring and measurement service can help prove the value of press releases to clients and senior management.

“Thanks to better monitoring and tracking services, tracking the true ROI of a news release has never been easier,” writes Serena Ehrlich, Business Wire director of social and evolving media.

Although free press release distribution websites may seem like an easy public relations tactic, PR and SEO experts generally recommend avoiding them or at least being extremely leery of them. Paid news distribution services offer far better results, they assert.

Bottom Line: Some digital marketers criticize press releases as an outdated strategy. Their attacks are often a not-so-transparent technique to promote their own services while concealing their lack of PR knowledge and skills. PR pros who know how to properly create and distribute press releases and track results through media monitoring and measurement can produce substantial benefits.