On October 28, 1906, fifty-three people were killed in a train wreck in Atlantic City, New Jersey. PR pioneer Ivy Lee, who had been working with the Pennsylvania Railroad at the time, convinced the railroad company to issue a public statement regarding the tragic event. Two days later, The New York Times printed the statement verbatim. And thus, the press release was born.
More than 100 years later, in today’s modern media landscape dominated by social media and new communications technologies, some people are now questioning the relevance of the press release. Having been in PR for a couple of years, I’ve written and read my fair share of press releases and gained a good understanding of their role in communications today. But alas, the question remains — is the press release dead? Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age sure thinks so, but I don’t. The press release is certainly evolving, but dead? Absolutely not.
Let’s look at the numbers. According to a 2009 Web Watch Media Survey conducted by Akreti Group, 92 percent of journalists polled get their story ideas from press releases. This alone makes it clear to me that the press release is and will remain an invaluable part of any PR campaign.
As for social media and communications technologies such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, YouTube and PitchEngine, I believe these are driving the evolution of the press release. More than 100 years ago, the press release was intended to quickly and effectively share information. Supporting its roots now more than ever before, the press release enables people to quickly find, share and interact with the information they read via SEO, widgets and rich media.
As new social and multimedia platforms and tools are developed, I believe they will continue to complement, not replace, the press release. Not to worry, press release — I don’t see your obituary being written anytime in the near future.