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Why the press release isn’t dead (and won’t be for some time)

Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust Chair Sarah Pryce being interviewed for the charity's 30th anniversary. Pic by www.pr4photos.co.uk

The press release. The staple of the PR toolkit.

I’ve heard the death knell of the press release more times than I’ve had hot pitches. So much so, Rich Leigh dedicates a chapter to it in his new book.

And I’m here to tell you, it’s still alive and kicking.

I remember press releases from the Other Side – in the newsroom. I once practically filled a weekly edition of the newspaper where I cut my teeth by delving into the news editor’s in-tray of press releases on a quiet Thursday afternoon.

This was back when press releases would be stuffed into envelopes, and when there was only one newsroom email address. Or faxed in.

I recently went back to the coal face of media relations – I’m usually found teaching the art and science of PR these days, or nailing a chief exec to the boardroom table with post-it notes and Sharpies (figuratively, not literally).

So it was all kinds of awesome to be booked for a media-wrangling job for my long-standing clients, Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust. I’ve been working with them for nearly seven years, and their story just keeps getting better.

As a result, we had a full stable of media contacts at their 30th anniversary celebrations. We hooked them in with the treat of a ride in one of the helicopters (the one that was offline – we weren’t impacting any real emergency shouts). But of those – from TV news to local weekly paper, each of them asked me: “Do you have a press release?” And often the second question was: “Please can you email it to me?”

Here’s why press releases still stand the test of time:

  1. You get the story across that you want to tell. Reporters – print, online and in broadcast – are pressed for time more than ever. A well-written press release for certain, mostly regional, platforms, enables the optimum “Control C/Control V, tidy up and file” process.
  2. It encourages you to pitch your story in one sentence. The opening paragraphs should tell journalists everything they need to know. The press release therefore has two purpose – one, to get a journo’s attention; two, to get them to use it.
  3. For online, reporters will enrich their content in other ways. You provide the backdrop of the story, they can then capture their own video footage.
  4. You can build in your web marketing key phrases. And backlinks to your site. I gather there has been a parallel “Back links are dead” debate going on in the SEO & web marketing community for years. The point is, Google favours quality content that carries relevance. Media relations is naturally about generating better quality content on respected platforms. (NB I am not an expert in this area. I am happy to be corrected on this).
  5. You can line up comments from your spokespeople. I had four key spokespeople to get in front of nine key titles within a window of about an hour. Getting a media-friendly soundbite from each at leasts supports the print and online media to get what they need quickly and cleanly.
  6. The fast-changing media landscape. Even I was chuffed to see such an unprecedented media turnout for the CAAT 30th anniversary. Journalists genuinely struggle to leave the newsroom these days because of their ongoing targets to file stories. Using a press release means you can hand them the story on a plate.

In fact, the charity’s in-house comms officer James Oxley said: “It’s actually a subject I feel very strongly about. I have had widespread success for many years regionally and nationally which would not have had anywhere near as much impact without a press release.”

And the results? Blanket coverage across 100% of our target media – double page spreads across Cornwall’s print media, all the broadcast channels covered it extensively plus plenty of social and online content.

Do you need a razor sharp press release crafted for your media relations campaign? Talk to me

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