Is the Press Release dead or alive?

Recently, I took a reporter from Switzerland around St. Louis to visit various elements of the rather vibrant startup ecosystem in the region. And press releases somehow became a running joke.

It began as he learned that part of what I do is media outreach. His response, with a smile, was, “so you send press releases.” It seems, press releases are a running joke among reporters.

Back in the 90s, press releases were the holy grail. I remember drafting those perfect releases, standing next to a fax machine for hours to send out my beautiful creation, following up with cold calls to reporters, and then seeing my efforts reflected on the front page of the papers the next day.

That’s just not going to happen today.

Today, no one has fax machines. E-mails are easily deleted. And reporters really don’t care about your shiny new toy, or your executive’s latest musings.

So, here’s a list of things to try instead.

Invite a reporter out for coffee or drinks.

Get to know the people whose job it is to write about the things you are trying to promote.

Learn what a reporter wants to cover.

Find out what a reporter likes to write about, and then go out and find interesting stories for them. If you can’t figure out what they are looking for, ask them.

Send stories that have nothing to do with you.

Yes, you are going to have your clients who want coverage. But why not become a useful source for those in the media. It’s enjoyable. And it’s appreciated. And sometimes, you can send items that do have something to do with you.

Use your press release as an online tool.

A carefully crafted release, with links and keywords, can be a powerful tool to help convince Google that your news and your client are important. And, since Google is your client’s online reputation, it’s well worth the effort.

Set up your own news agency.

Well, sort of. Look at it this way. Twitter is your breaking news outlet. Facebook is your magazine. Your blog is your editorial page. And YouTube is your TV news. Used effectively, you can have a powerful reach into the online world.

Tell a story.

Yes. I know. You are so sick of hearing people telling you to tell your story, or figure out a narrative, or humanize your company. But, it’s still true. I had a reporter tell me that an item was great for St. Louis but why should his global audience care. And the reporter was right. Figure out why they should care. Why should your contact take the time to sell the editors on an idea, conduct interviews, write the piece and attach his or her reputation to your news?

So, the answer to whether the press release is dead? The answer is, both yes and no. In the traditional sense of sending out a press release, sitting back, and watching the coverage flow in, for most companies the press release is dead. But if you are using it to help drive search engine results, focus your message, or use as additional information in the note to the reporters you have built a trusting relationship with, then it is still quite alive and well.

Editor’s Note: Mark’s post first appeared on his LinkedIn blog here.

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