The proper role of the news release
My recent post about the direction this blog was heading led some folks to think that I didn't see any value in press releases. Nothing could be further from the truth. The press release, or more properly, the news release, has a very important communications job, whether it's the old form or the fancy social media form with links and video. Quite simply, it conveys news to the media in an understood format. Or at least that's what it should be doing.
The news release is not and never has been the optimum form for communicating that same company news to our customers. There have always been much better alternatives - face to face, telephone, direct mail, annual reports, email, newsletters and now blogs -- for speaking directly with our customers.
The rise of the search engines in the 90s, however, led to a bizarre and mistaken transformation of the news release, in its natural and somewhat inaccessible form, into sales collateral. The story went something like this:
- Customers are searching for information online;
- The search engines index news releases sent through the newswires;
- Therefore we should disseminate all our information in news release form to improve our discoverability. Even if it isn't exactly, strictly speaking news.
I suspect if we did an analysis, we'd find a correlation between the decline in the quality of press releases with the rise of the search engines.
This has got to stop, full stop. We have got to get back to a model where the news release is about news -- real, interesting, viable news -- aimed at journalists covering that news. If customers, bloggers and search engines "find" our releases, that's just fine, but we shouldn't be writing our news for the search engines. That's what leads to crappy releases with less than zero news value. With or without links.
Write your news release for the news media. If customers and bloggers find it through search engines, terrific. Consider it a bonus. But write news, not product brochures.
Write your website for your customers, and yes, for the search engines too. If you write a good site that sells your product effectively, it should be fairly well optimized for search. .
That way, when you sit down to write a customer communication, whether a customer newsletter or a blog pitch, you can focus on developing a story that connects with the customer. Not on shoehorning your communication into a format for which it is not suited.
Preview of coming attractions:
Until today, this was pretty close to the worst pitch of the year:
Today, a friend forwarded one that absolutely tops it. In fact, it's so pungent, I'm not sure anything can top it.
Once I find the words, you'll find it here.
The comments to this entry are closed.