Night of the living dead press release

May 7th, 2012
Filed under: Social Media — joel @ 1:08 pm

Gini Dietrich admonishes PR professionals No One Cares About Your News Release, and goes on to advise against posting press releases (or links) to a company’s Facebook page. Posting links to press releases on a company’s Facebook page is not only acceptable, it’s desirable.

The irrelevance and death of the press release has been predicted/declared every six months for the last five years with mind-numbing regularity. Yet, even in hip, slick 2012, journalists say they get most of their company information from press releases. A survey this March by PR firm Text100 found that the press release is the highest rated source of company information among journalists, bar none, exceeding the value of Facebook pages, blog posts and every other communications vehicle in the survey. To discard the press release as a PR tool (and it is only one of many) just to prove you’re a social media cool kid (SMCK), is a mistake.

The press release serves as a company’s official statement of record on a topic. For earnings, for example, it provides the SEC-compliant financial results and company context for those results. For the journalist, or the smart media consumer, a press release is just a starting point, but a useful one nonetheless.

Dietrich writes, “by posting your news release on your blog or social networks, you’re making it about you.” Well I damn well hope so. Social media is participative communications and no one with any sense is saying the company can’t participate, can’t have a voice, or can’t join in the conversation.

I once heard Wired editor Chris Anderson say he encouraged Wired’s bloggers to link to and quote press releases, since they were often the most authoritative source of company information. He added that they were not the only source of information, and that with the advent of blogs, no story is ever “done,” with comments and new blog posts adding new details and commentary to what we know about a story.

So if there’s any universal piece of advice for effective social media public relations, it’s “There is no universal piece of advice for effective social media public relations.” Before outlawing what can be a very effective part of your ocmmunications mix, consider the same things you would consider for any communications tactic:

  1. Are your press releases relevant to the people who come to your Facebook page?
  2. Does posting them provide people with useful information about the company, its products and its services?
  3. Do you actively encourage spirited discussion among your customers, suppliers, business partners, etc.?
  4. Do you use other sources of content on your Facebook page?

If you answered yes to all or some of these, you’re fine. Go ahead and post those links to your Facebook page. You can participate in the conversation, too! You have my permission.

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  1. A well crafted media release ought to perform as well with interested customers as with the traditional intermediaries, IMHO. In fact it should perform better.

    Comment by Jim Coffis — May 7, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

  2. Press release decriers and hormonally over-endowed executives who crave them make the same mistake about press releases. They think of them as “free” advertising.

    I do think press releases need to evolve from their former format as shadow news stories issued in the expectations that country editors will print them verbatim between ads for silage and dances at the Grange Hall. I now favor press releases that follow a bullet format that dispenses with 19th century journalistic fols de rol:

    Exculpatory Subhead
    Lead Sentence
    Supporting Facts Bullets
    For More Information Links
    Boiller Plate
    Key Words if You Want to Be Brutal About SEO

    Here note that this format is designed as a story kit, inviting the editor/blogger/Jane-on-the-street reader to investigate and build their own story from evidence as presented.

    Also, press releases are not designed to tell the reader everything, but to get them to want to learn more.

    That said, after 30 years in this accursed Valley, I hope I have written my last press release. I have a recurring dream of meeting all of them again after my death and explaining to my maker why I strayed so many times to make a living in the world He created.

    Comment by Martin Chorich — May 10, 2012 @ 10:38 am

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