The Problem Isn’t With the Press Release

    December 22, 2005

Rex Hammock doesn’t think the press release is dead, but he was amused that news of the Google-America Online deal had been well-communicated by the time Time Warner issued its press release:

Didn’t this happen (in blog time) months ago? Or maybe it was just last week and seems like months ago. It’s strange to see that it is just now be “press released.”

The problem here isn’t with the tool, but rather with the people using them. A good press release is timely, contains real company news, and quickly provides an editor or reporter with information that could be used in reporting that news. The idea that a news outlet won’t use a release because other news outlets got the same material is absurd. News is news, and reporters will use the release as a starting point to report the story. According to a speaker I heard at a conference a couple months ago, a study showed that some 80% of material appearing in newspapers had its start with a company spokesman or press release. A good press release does its job just fine.

Most press releases aren’t good. Entry-level PR staffers and lazy, incompetent practitioners hammer out the non-news crap that has given the press release a bad name. Sadly, as much as I’d like a concerted campaign to upgrade the skills of the newbies and get all the lowlifes new jobs at Dell customer service, it isn’t going to happen. You have to figure Time Warner has the resources to produce more effective communication than it did on December 20, recognizing that the release should provide the blogosphere with accurate information. I remember another announcement (I wish I could remember exactly what it was) in which a blogosphere leak prompted the company to issue its release immediately, days before it was planned. That was smarter PR than Time Warner practiced. But that’s why we should focus our ire on the people who produce lousy press releases rather than blame the press release itself.

Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.