The wide world of media and marketing seems never-ending. There is always so much to learn and so many new tips, tricks, and techniques to learn. No matter how many times you watch those YouTube videos trying to explain to you about the 5 best tips from the gurus of online marketing, there’s inevitably going to be a lot of content that is either false or flat-out unusable.
With that being said, there’s an equal amount of things that are helpful for a career in media and marketing. In this case, media and marketing refer to a broad range of careers or roles. Public relations (PR), advertising, internships, journalism, copywriting, etc. are among some of the more notable careers or roles that people can occupy in the media/marketing industry. Among those roles, there are some concrete techniques that will always be useful to know or practice.
One of those techniques is knowing the pros and cons of a press release. Press releases are a good way for businesses, individuals, or brands to help spread the word on a new product, an important announcement, a high-profile hiring or promotion, or generally any worthwhile piece of info that is newsworthy. Getting it into the right hands to have this news published is the end goal, and there are pros and cons to a press release. Here are some you should know.
The pros of press releases are very apparent by the simple fact that people are still writing press releases to this day. Even though the internet has changed news media and marketing, the written word is still one of the most powerful skills one can possess, even in the technological age. Here are some of the benefits of a press release:
Easy to Write
A press release is not an overly technical piece of written material. While there are plenty of rules to remember about writing journalistic pieces, a press release is not as stringent. For example, the AP (Associated Press) has guidelines for writing news articles that involve grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting, but a press release is a little more lenient. If you look at this site, you can see the rules of a press release. That doesn’t mean that it’s carte blanche and you can write how you feel, but it’s a little more straightforward.
Some of the rules you’d be expected to follow include:
- Proper grammar
- Proper spelling
- A consistent tone of writing (3rd person, active voice)
- Relevant details of the story towards the top
- Relevant background for the company or the story in the body paragraph
- Is relevant to the reporter or press it’s being sent to
- Follows the general format (headline, dateline, introduction, body, boilerplate, call to action, contact information)
As you can see, there are certainly some important details that need to be followed, but after viewing a dozen or so press releases, you can see some common checkmarks to tick off to make sure it follows the basic structure. The content itself should be marketable, meaning it’s compelling to read, because it has to be read quickly enough by the reader so they get what you’re trying to say. Otherwise, there is a major benefit in how simple a press release can be to learn.
Marketing can be expensive, this is no surprise if you already work in the field of marketing/advertising or work for a business that is hiring a marketing agency. It’s an integral process to branding and creating an audience within the niche market of the respective industry (medical, automotive, engineering, food and beverage, etc.), but the costs add up. The benefit of a press release is that it costs next to nothing to write one on your own. As mentioned, learning how to write a press release is incredibly easy when you figure out the proper formula.
Even hiring an agency to do your work for you can save money in the long run as well because they likely focus on more than just press releases and can offer valuable packages to have them on retainer as a marketing service. Either way, saving money is an essential value to have as a prudent business owner or marketer, so press releases are a very savvy way to spread the news about important info that should be read and passed on without indulging in too much of the operating budget.
Excellent Way to Build Industry Connections
It’s been mentioned a few times already but you can already tell that the purpose is to get the information into the right hands. These people, journalists or general members of the press, are able to pass the press release and details on or use it to help create a story. This is a basic form of networking because it allows a business to open a dialogue with someone who has the credentials to get information out there.
Networking isn’t confined to the golf courses, the luncheons, or the dinner parties after hours, it’s just as easily achieved by reaching out through an email to ensure that journalists are hearing about a new product launch or a company rebranding effort. Once this story has been passed on, assuming the press release was compelling and the story was picked up, there’s now a much easier-in with members of the press that can help a business out.
Creates Brand Awareness
Building a brand is tough because no one really knows how to start from the ground up, and it’s a good concern because brand awareness is hard to do in an age where everyone from the Instagram influencers on the beach to the high-powered Forbes 100 companies is trying to brand themselves. A press release helps create a simple outline of a product, service, or business mission that is able to encapsulate some of the relevant details that allow them to formulate a brand.
Creating those connections with industry insiders and members of the press media allows a much more concise way to let people with clout know what you stand for and why you are important. Creating a written document that makes mention of your values, beliefs, goals, and other brand-building qualities is an integral part of why a press release can be so important, even for the smallest of businesses. This is a pro that has allowed people to use a press release to their advantage for quite some time in the world of marketing.
There are certainly plenty of reasons why a press release offers value for a company or a brand, and they are hard to ignore, but nothing comes without some downsides. These downsides must be addressed because while a press release can be useful, they aren’t the saving grace of marketing tactics that a company can use. Here are some of the cons that may be present regarding a press release and its use or intention:
Potential to Be Ignored
The formatting of the press release might not be an exact science, but it’s hard to ignore why it’s set up this way. Just like you would while writing a research paper, you need to make sure the reader is aware of what is important and what’s about to be discussed in the introduction. Even before this, the headline of the press release can either make or break the ability for you to get your important announcement or news into the right hands.
When creating a press release, there is a factor of urgency that is crucial to the delivery of it successfully. It has to be read and understood within the first 20-30 seconds, which isn’t a lot of time when you consider how many of these releases a particular member of the press might go through during the course of their workday. Skimming through hundreds of press releases means you need to make the headline compelling but succinct, the intro hard-hitting but not overly detailed, and the writing has to be digestible for a reader without diving too deep into industry jargon.
This makes a press release a lot more complicated to get done correctly because plenty of people don’t hear back on their content because it’s not clear and it’s not concise, two pillars of a good press release. If it doesn’t follow those tenants, it can just as easily be ignored.
Over-Extending Your Reach Can Hurt Your Reputation
There’s also something to be said about networking too much or too hard. People don’t like someone chatting in their ear incessantly at a business lunch as much as they wouldn’t like it at the bar, so the same applies to writing a press release. It might seem appealing to simply craft one and shoot out hundreds of emails to hundreds of journalists, but that can get you into some trouble. You won’t be blacklisted as a business, but if you’re emailing a journalist in tech about a new CFO for a clothing company, they might get annoyed.
This principle also applies to constantly send content to journalists that are not interested. It might simply result in you being ignored, but over time they can become annoyed which hurts your reputation. It’s imperative that a press release is sent to the right people (not the editor-in-chief of a publication), and not over-extending your reach or your welcome with them. It’s in its essence, email etiquette, which can quickly backfire.
Needs to Be Well Written
Going back to the formatting and technical aspects of the press release, it might not be incredibly rigid where you can’t experiment to make it work better, but it sure does need to be well-written regardless of your tone. A poorly written press release can be incredibly easy to send out without some spellchecking. It’s an incredibly unprofessional thing to create a piece of written media in a business setting that is riddled with errors, punctuation mistakes, and egregious formatting problems where the body is one giant paragraph or the headline makes no sense.
This is why the written aspect of a press release is still so important to get down to a second-nature level skill. The unprofessionalism of a poorly written press release can also harm your reputation as a journalist or media member might dismiss your company as an amateur or without any care for doing things well, which can reflect poorly on the overall perception of the business and its members. It might seem small, but a brisk skim of a press release can quickly sour perception.
Some Industries Consider Press Releases Outdated
The use of press releases is still widespread in nearly every industry, and it makes sense considering it’s a good way to get news straight from the horse’s mouth for journalists. The problem is that while technology has made it easier to send or receive press releases, depending on your industry for your business, it could end up being overlooked because a lot of media that cover certain industries simply don’t value them like they used to.
A prime example is in the tech industry. The tech industry for press and media is constantly in flux which means there are stories being rifled out of newsrooms by the minute. Press releases, while easily digestible, don’t mean as much when someone can get a DM (direct message), text, or an email with a quick Subject line or brief on the piece and who to contact. It’s no surprise and certainly no shot at Millenials that they have shorter attention spans, it’s just a product of the 24-hour news cycle, so even a press release may be too old-fashioned. It’s not a con that is set in stone, but it wouldn’t be shocking to have a press release dismissed because it’s still not as succinct as a quick message on social media.
You can see how a press release can be either good or bad. It all depends on plenty of variables, some of which may be out of your control. The good makes it appealing in the sense that it’s simple to learn and easy to get a story out for awareness, and the bad make it off-putting because making there’s a higher likelihood it’ll be rejected. Regardless of whether the pros outweigh the cons, a press release is still a widely used marketing tactic even today.