Are We In The Age Of The Death Of Press Releases?

For decades press releases have been a staple in the public relations industry. After all before the advent of the internet and especially social media launched, public relations professionals needed journalists to spread the news about their newest widget or the launch of a fundraiser.  Journalists needed public relations professionals too.  Often times it is a public relations’ professionals’ ideas that fill the newspaper or are included in the next newscast.

Reach Your Audience apps icons on globe. Courtesy of PRNews.org

Reach Your Audience apps icons on globe. Courtesy of PRNews.org

Now some people question the need for press releases.  It’s a reasonable question to ponder. Every business and nonprofit has its own Facebook and Twitter accounts, not to mention a handful of other accounts. More than 70 percent of adults said their cell phones helped them stay better engaged with the world, according to an October 2014 Pew Research study.

Morgan Lyons, an assistant vice-president of communications and community engagement at the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority (DART), recently spoke to our graduate strategic public relations class.   During his guest lecture he informed us that DART used to send out press releases quite frequently and even had a newsroom page on its website accessible to reporters or members of the general public.

Yet, after pulling the newsroom portion of the website down his communications’ team has seen their overall engagement numbers steadily rise over the years. Lyons noted it is best to just use a small number of social media outlets in the most engaging way possible than to manage dozens of accounts, which could result in diminished returns. DART uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a RSS feed. Using these mediums allows DART to tell their own compelling stories, while also directly answering consumers’ concerns through a two-way dialogue.  People want to know corporations, organizations and government entities actually care and will respond to their questions or comments.

The ways a press release is delivered also is changing. Many times now a press release may not actually even be printed out. It zings across time and space digitally to magically appear in the recipient’s email box. Some proposed stories involve sending a quick two- to three-sentence pitch to a prospective media representative. In that instance a full-page press release is not even needed. Reporters appreciate pitches because they are shorter, while boiling directly down to the nuts and bolts of the topic.

Lyons pointed out DART still sends press releases out. The frequency has significantly diminished from the number sent several years ago.  He doesn’t believe press releases are dead. He just believes our communication style is ever evolving.

Just re-evaluate how you communicate. Keep it fresh and evolve.

Outwit the Facebook pranksters

Thousands, if not millions, of people updated their Facebook profiles with notices regarding the need to pay for Facebook to keep their privacy settings private earlier this week.

Years ago, I fell for the same trick. I assumed Facebook had posted the notice on its page and distributed it out to the media. I made a critical mistake though. I did not check the websites of any major news organizations (NY Times, ABC News, CBS News, Dallas Morning News, etc. ) to see what they were reporting. Facebook is one of the largest websites in the world and the “grandfather” of social media, with millions of users, so if the social giant experiences any major change to its system there is bound to be a swell of media coverage.

Remember practical pranksters exist throughout the world. Some pull their jokes in person. Others cloak themselves in secrecy by sending their pranks out digitally to affect billions of people. I am sure these people had a great time sitting back laughing at the throng of people copy and pasting their message.

Every social media provider, many online games and even websites have Terms of Service or Data Policies, which spell out the legal way the service can be used, what information they acquire and how that information will be used.

Lesson learned – be sure to check well-known, reliable news entities for any major social media network change. Anyone with half-way descent typing skills and a wi-fi connection can publish a blog. That’s not to say bloggers reposting the notice did so to intentionally mislead others, but digital pranksters prey on people being too busy to double check information. It’s so much easier to hit “Share” or copy and paste a message.

Next time outsmart the pranksters. Take a few extra steps to double check it.