The Death of the Press Release.

An excerpt from the bestseller “The Global PR Revolution”


RIP, Press Release! 1906–2007


The one-time ubiquitous emblem of classic PR, the press release, has technically been dead for a while now. To be more precise, His Majesty the Press Release has been dying — a relatively slow death, but a death, nonetheless. And there is no coming back. Thanks to the social media revolution, we are in the afterlife. An admittedly arbitrary but still plausibly precise date pinpointing the press release’s death might be November 6, 2007 — the day when Facebook launched its then vastly obscure, and today vastly dominant, Facebook Pages. At first glance, it might seem as though the death of the press release was slightly exaggerated. After all, press releases are still in circulation. Our company, for instance, still sends out press releases on some occasions for many of our clients.

Yet the death of the press release has been foretold

for one simple reason: it should have become apparent to everybody years ago that with the social media tsunami hurtling toward the shorelines of public communication, the news will be absorbed faster than ever and almost exclusively through social media rather than the formal messages of PR agencies. Another factor driving another nail in the press release’s coffin is that whatever is left of traditional journalism has begun using social media as their primary source for news stories. Unless a television channel needs TV footage or some personal presence is essential, traditional media do not dispatch reporters to check out the situation on the ground anymore. What traditional media have been doing for several years now has been logging onto social media and monitoring the news feeds of profiles and pages of key public figures, politicians, CEOs, and celebrities. There’s an earthquake?

You get on Twitter and Facebook and learn the latest. Whether you are the end reader or reporting major news for tomorrow’s newspaper doesn’t matter. With that in mind, when it comes to the press release, a PR professional cannot help but think, “What’s the most efficient method for me? To send out a boring press release to the (traditional and classic online news) media, or to post a few updates on social media — a Facebook post and a couple of tweets? You may have noticed that with the advent of Web 1.0 and the rise of news sites on the World Wide Web, the “press release” got a bit of a makeover as a “news release.” This happened simultaneously with the shift from “the press” to digital media (plus the electronic media that had already been around for more than a decade). “News release” did sound good ten or fifteen years ago, but this is not the case anymore. This is no more than a nickname of the good old press release. It didn’t signify any meaningful changes. Then there is Twitter. There is no way to send out a press release in 140 characters, but the fact is that a 140-character tweet is often capable of saying much more than a full-fledged old-school press release.

My advice: if you know how to write it, tweet it.

Your tweet will likely be more understandable, and when a press release is more to the point, more down-to-earth, then the media will snap it up immediately. My company strives to convince our numerous clients that all news should appear on their social media profiles and pages first. If their social media channels don’t achieve sufficient coverage, which would be an exception, would we back up their posts with a press release? Alternatively, sending out a press release often takes explicitly the form of a Facebook status, ten photos on Pinterest, or that 140-character tweet. It doesn’t appear as a formal press release — no need for that anymore. It’s not just unwise; it might even be counterproductive.

Wondering why the press release is dying off is like wondering why horse carts are disappearing because we have automobiles now!

We in the PR industry now have new tools for announcing news, which are beyond exciting! These new tools are faster, more reliable, and — what probably matters most — they are interactive. The last part is the excellent news for the public. The fact that social media platforms provide the opportunity for a dialogue can be used to rectify all sorts of communication mistakes, manipulations, and injustices. This is also a considerable part of the social media revolution era and goes back to strengthen further my abovementioned point about the dissociation between PR and propaganda.

For instance, Samsung launched their new Galaxy Note 7 phone in August 2016. Soon after, Note 7 batteries started to explode (a manufacturing defect caused some of them to overheat). In a case like that, regardless of the kind of “propaganda” one might have tried, no matter what press releases you might send out, whatever you do, the consequences are permanent. Only a few dozen Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone batteries “exploded,” a tiny fraction of those produced, but many airlines still prohibit the phones on board. Whatever Samsung may have done, thanks to social media, in just thirty seconds, the entire world knew that their Galaxy Note 7 batteries were “exploding.” This is just one example. The press release was an old-school instrument for communication with our client’s target audience. Other classic PR instruments include press conferences, media meetings, business brunches, and business conferences.

All those are now replaced by posts on social media

and occasionally still by personal meetings with journalists. The press release has been suffering a slow death that will take a while because such a development is a function of the market’s maturity. There are still countries where social media platforms haven’t achieved such enormous penetration yet. There are also countries where social media are very country-specific and probably not that popular with the general public. In such markets, it might make sense for businesses to keep using press releases to communicate their messages to the media and the public and, where possible, to use the most relevant social media platform for the specific country. The beauty of genuinely global social media is that while your press release might go to 100, 500, or even 1,000 media outlets (there probably isn’t a country in the world with that many), news on social media could theoretically reach 2–3 billion people — that is, potentially, if your news story is super attractive. You know how, where, and when to post it.

Everybody knows how many “likes” celebrity Instagram posts get,

usually without amounting to anything meaningful — just some music or film star takes a selfie on the plane, for example. Quite recently, someone took a photo of Madonna in the economics class of a short European flight, posted it on Instagram, and got 10–15 million “likes” in hours, even minutes. The power of “likes” is another big thing in this social media revolution, not just PR. If you “like” a particular social media post (a status, a photo, etc.), that doesn’t necessarily mean liking that post. It means two things: first, your “liking” something implies that you have seen it, i.e., you register the fact that you have seen it; and second, which is first, really, you demonstrate that you exist and you express an opinion. In my view,

this is the first and foremost reason people “like” on social media — to show others that they exist and make a statement: “I like, therefore I am.”

You make it clear to everybody that you “like” something somebody else posted. “She or he likes that, so they exist on social media. She or he is not just anybody, but ‘likes’ stuff,” other users would think of you any time you “like” something. In a nutshell, the potential of social media is unlimited, endless, and unrestricted, while the potential of a press release is limited regardless of how many (traditional) media publish it. Moreover, if a press release is in English but has to go to Germany, it must be translated into German and Dutch in the Netherlands. Perhaps it will be understood in English in most places, but you must still translate it into the local language because of corporate rules. At the same time, a post on Facebook can be solved with a mouse click. So here and there, we still work with a press release, but that is increasingly rare in the US.


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