For decades press releases have been a staple in the public relations industry. After all before the advent of the internet and especially social media launched, public relations professionals needed journalists to spread the news about their newest widget or the launch of a fundraiser. Journalists needed public relations professionals too. Often times it is a public relations professional ideas that fill the newspaper or get included in the next newscast.
Now some people question the need for press releases. It’s a reasonable question to ponder. Every business and nonprofit has its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, not to mention a handful of other accounts. More than 70 percent of adults said their cell phones helped them stay better engaged with the world, according to an October 2014 Pew Research study.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority Assistant Vice-President of Communications and Engagement Morgan Lyons recently spoke to our graduate strategic public relations class. During his guest lecture he informed us that DART used to send out press releases quite frequently and even had a newsroom page on its website accessible to reporters or members of the general public.
Yet, after pulling the newsroom portion of the website down, his communications team saw their overall engagement numbers steadily rise over the years. Lyons noted it is best to just use a small number of social media outlets in the most engaging way possible than to manage dozens of accounts, which could result in diminished returns. DART uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a RSS feed. These platforms allow DART to tell their own compelling stories, while also directly answering consumers concerns through a two-way dialogue. People want to know corporations, organizations and government entities actually care and will respond to their questions or comments.
The ways a press release is delivered also is changing. Years ago press releases were mailed or faxed to media outlets. Now most press releases are not even be printed out. It zings across time and space digitally to magically appear in the recipient’s email box. Some proposed stories involve sending a quick two- to three-sentence pitch to a prospective media representative. So in that instance a full-page press release is not even needed. Reporters appreciate pitches because they are shorter, while boiling directly down to the nuts and bolts of the topic.
Lyons pointed out DART still sends press releases out. The frequency has significantly diminished from the number sent several years ago. He doesn’t believe press releases are dead. He just believes our communication style is ever evolving.
It’s important to periodically re-evaluate how you communicate with your audiences. Keep evolving to what your audience needs.