Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Conversation with Scott Kirsner, Part 2: Is the press release dead?

Contributed by Beth Monaghan
In part two of my series following a conversation with Scott Kirsner, the Innovation Economy columnist and blogger for the Boston Globe and Ross Levanto, SVP at Schwartz Communications, we talk about the future of the press release. Last week Ross posted a piece of that conversation about targeting your audience, which I encourage you to read. 

The topic of the fate of the press release comes up often, most frequently from those who have embraced social media and view it as a relic from the past. Many of these entrepreneurs, CEOs and marketers are looking to use their blogs as the mouthpiece for their news.

Scott said that he comes across younger, more entrepreneurial companies that think they are old school. He said, “They’ll announce interesting things on their blogs and via Twitter, which is great because you feel like that stuff is coming off the CEO’s cuff, but I do wonder about breaking news via your blog or Twitter feed that you may have been able to get the Globe, the Economist or Wall Street Journal to write about.”

The latter point is a critical one. If you are Twitter or Facebook, yes, you can announce news on your blog and everyone will see it. But if you are a startup, it is not enough. If you build it, they might not necessarily come until you convince them it will be worthwhile. You should absolutely use Twitter, your blog and other social outlets to push out your news, but they should be part of a broader strategy to disseminate it to the right audiences through the right channels. While we in the technology community live and breath social media, not all of your customers (business or consumer) do.

So where does that leave the press release? It’s never been more important and should be used as one of a number of tools for a news announcement. Consider that:

·       Many bloggers simply repackage press releases verbatim, which means that your message is getting out there in its truest form. This trend is on the rise as bloggers are under pressure to post news within minutes of it breaking.
·       By issuing press release over wire services like PR Newswire, BusinessWire or MarketWire you are fueling SEO for your site, if you select your key words properly in your headlines.
·       The press release remains an important tool for reporters at top tier outlets who need to evaluate the newsworthiness of a topic before they decide to write a story. This negotiating process almost always happens before the news has been published because it ensures that the news is not stale. Posting it on your blog instantly makes it old news.

As far as the future of the press release and breaking news via social media, this exchange between Ross and Scott was particularly informative:

·       Ross: Do you think we’re moving toward some sort of reality where breaking news is aggregated from a mess of Twitter feeds looking for specific tags and then your roles is to identify trends and look at the bigger picture?

·       Scott: Maybe, but there is still a role for good old-fashioned reporting. We’re here at the Charles Hotel and virtually every time I have breakfast here, there’s some bit of news I get by chatting with someone I run into. Since General Catalyst is here, I just got a tip a week or two ago that they are moving some people out to Palo Alto and opening and office. That wasn’t something that came through a Twitter feed.

My takeaway? Social media provides an amazing complement to public relations initiatives. While we should certainly adapt traditional practices (as we’ve seen with emergence of the “social media press release”), they still serve an important purpose for communicating news to reporters like Scott, and to bloggers who use them as fodder for their own posts.

Listen to audio from this portion of the conversation here (thanks to Scott Montminy for the editing): 

Scott Kirsner also posted the entire audio file from our chat here:

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