A colleague of mine from a press agency asked for my thoughts about a recent study where 45% of respondents said that press releases are losing their relevancy. As the CEO of a company that cares deeply about how my company communicates, and who believes in social media, I've written that I think that old school PR is dead. So it might not be surprising to some to hear that I think most communications professionals have it backwards - again.
Press releases aren't dead, their role is being reborn. Social media is immensely powerful. But that power enables the transmission of misinformation just as it enables the transmission of the truth. A press release is one of the few remaining versions of the truth.
In the old days of communications, a press release was for the press. Not anymore. Press releases used to be teasers - a tool written by PR professionals and used to get the attention of a writer. This use of a press release is waning in importance. And it's why, as the survey suggests, as many of 97% of press releases sent to media outlets are never acted on.
New school communications recognize social media as increasingly important sources of opinion. Blog posts use press releases as the main source of the truth.
New school communications are faster. But tweets are ephemeral; press releases are forever. Good press releases are carefully considered - it can take weeks to edit them because they document major milestones and events.The integrity of a tweet is a function of the integrity of the twitter, and some tweeters are twits. Press releases are the official record.
New school communications have brought the "man on the street" into the discussion, which complements a company's view (via the press release), industry commentators, critics, and investigators.
In the new school era of mass opinions, press releases hold more weight than ever before. For example, I work in the financial services industry, and banks are notoriously secretive. Getting a bank to agree to a press release is a big deal. The very existence of a press release is news in and of itself.
Of course, the public is turning to other sources of information. Of course press releases can become over processed by corporate PR filters. Of course old school PR is dead. But press releases are the official record of business, and in the social media era, press releases set the record straight, because they are the record.