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Press Release’s Evolution at PR Companies

Google rarely issues press releases; the company that defines the current tech economy to many releases news on its blog. Earlier this month, Google distributed a very short statement directing people to its website to see its most recent earnings news.

The statement by Google is significant. Press releases are a main method public companies use to inform audiences about material events, as companies must simultaneously disclose material news. Press release distribution services, such as Business Wire and PR Newswire, exist to satisfy these requirements. In the case of Google, they decided to merely post their earnings release on a blog and use the distribution service to note that the content is there for all to see.

I am not a lawyer, and decisions about simultaneous disclosure and the material nature of news are to be made by lawyers, but there has been some discussion as to whether blog posts satisfy simultaneous disclosure. The SEC decided a couple years ago that they do satisfy disclosure, but the guidance issued at the time left a lot of gray areas, and many companies, based on my observation, are still relying on press release distribution as a primary means of disclosure. Even Google straddled the line; while their earnings release was online, they used a standard distribution service to tell everyone it was there.

Interpretations of the SEC rules are vital to the future of the press release, one would argue. If lawyers think blog posts satisfy disclosure, it would eliminate one of the primary reasons for press release distribution.

For a long time, PR companies have talked about the end of the press release. The ubiquity of the Internet as a distribution platform puts the spotlight on the good old-fashioned press release, which has had a place in PR since the industry’s beginnings. Almost all technology PR and healthcare PR pros will agree the press release is "old school," yet press releases are still requested by every professional journalist we talk to.

While press releases are still a fundamental PR tactic, their role in what we do is changing. Not to mention the fact that press releases themselves are changing.

My industry brethren over at Shift Communications came up with the infamous "social media press release," which they originally defined as a press release that is formatted so as to be easily digestible by the media. More recently, the definition of a social media press released has morphed and forked, with some saying it’s a release that can be easily shared or interacted with. Others describe it as a release that incorporates multimedia.

Now, obviously, press releases are read by a far larger number of audiences than just the press. (Even though they are still called press releases.) Anybody with a web browser can read a release on a company’s website. Schwartz’s teams talk all the time about writing the press releases differently so as to appeal to the strategic audiences of a given piece of news.

Since press releases are published on the web, they are vital for search engine optimization. News distribution services, such as Business Wire or PR Newswire, assist SEO by placing press release content all over the web. Creating a well-written, optimized release and then distributing it with these services can affect your SEO rankings.

The ongoing discussions about the demise of the press release are driven by the ubiquity of the Internet and the fact that a blog post to a company website can reach anyone. Which brings us back to Google, their propensity to issue news via blog posts, and the increasing number of examples of other entities that are following suit.

Take the White House. White House officials post often to the White House’s own blog. The New York Times regularly references White House blog postings in its coverage. White House officials often refer reporters to the blog for additional commentary or more information.

We have been actively incorporating blog content into our clients’ programs—and we even manage and write blog content for a number of them. Our client ESET has a very active and well-read blog (content by ESET employees) and a very popular podcast series that is produced by the Schwartz team. Across our clients, we tell reporters, analysts and other influencers to read our clients blogs on an ongoing basis. We often brainstorm material that can augment announcements. The supplemental material makes for good blog content; and we use other promotion channels to refer audiences to it.

Are press releases dead or dying? People like to say so, because press releases have been around for ever. In reality, a press release is just one of the many types of content that are a part of a PR program; likewise, standard press release distribution is just one of the many channels a PR program can use to reach a target audience.

A well-run, organized technology PR or healthcare PR program recognizes the value of press releases, blog content and other content, as well as the various channels that reach target audiences. Such a firm is not overly reliant on press releases, nor overly dismissive of them, but rather understands how PR today involves a variety of methods to connect strategic messaging with strategic audiences.

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Ross Levanto

Ross Levanto

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

Ross Levanto has driven the PR programs for innovators across a number of tech markets. He’s also a key agency thinker with regard to the intersection of content marketing and PR.

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