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.

Bloomingdales Holiday Date-Rape

Who doesn’t love going to a holiday party during the Christmas season? It’s nice to take time to enjoy spending time with friends, co-workers and even your significant others.

Controversial holiday ad from Bloomingdales Courtesy of Twitter @KrisAlderson

Controversial holiday ad from Bloomingdales Courtesy of Twitter @KrisAlderson

Bloomingdale’s Christmas 2015 holiday book features an ad with a young woman laughing and man eyeing her like he’s a predator who is moments away from bagging his trophy. If the man’s glance wasn’t disturbing enough the suggestion of date raping the woman are absolutely terrifying. The ad reads “Spike Your Best Friend’s Eggnog When They’re Not Looking.”

It didn’t take long for luxury retail giant Bloomingdales to receive heated messages across social media platforms as people detested this dangerous date-rape message.

Twitter user @KrisAlderson posted a copy of the ad on Monday, Nov. 9 just moments before midnight,  and added “Or don’t and quit being a creep.” Her posts was retweeted 558 times and favorited 639 times.

#Bloomingdales analytics Courtesy of Topsy.com

#Bloomingdales analytics Courtesy of Topsy.com

Search analytics tool Topsy.com shows more than 2,560 tweets were sent within a seven-day period from Nov. 6 to Nov. 13 using the hashtag #Bloomingsdales.

A quick search shows some of those tweets were not in relation to the ad, but a vast majority are directly related to the posting.

The retailers acknowledged people’s outrage and apologized in their most recent tweet made at 5:02 pm Nov. 10, roughly 17 hours after Alderson’s posting.

Bloomingdales online apology. Courtesy of Bloomingdales' Twitter feed

Bloomingdales online apology. Courtesy of Bloomingdales’ Twitter feed

Bloomingdales did the right thing by responding to this incident in less than 24 hours. In today’s ultra-fast world a brand, regardless of size, can not delay in not responding as it could prove more damaging to the brand.

Yet it really should have not taken that long. It’s today’s world of social media everyone is connected by digital technology. I assure you whoever is responsible for the ad and the Bloomingdales social media account must have seen the backlash much earlier in the day. Possibly as early as 9 a.m. A decision should have been made to write and release a statement, preferable before lunch.

@ShortCanuck said in part …”Astonished that ANYONE would think it appropriate. Hope contribution to women’s causes is made.” Other tweets pointed out Bloomingdales or the agency responsible for the ad suffers from a lack of diversity. Bloomingdales has yet to release any additional information answering the demands for contributions or its failure of a diverse staff overseeing the copy design.

Some of the people posting responses to believe the ad was intentionally added to the catalog to ensure a viral hit for the 143-year old department store. Another user felt the public was being unfairly harsh to the retailer calling the backlash a result of too-much political correctness in our society. I found that to be very disturbing.

Twitter user @SirTitan45 was upset as he complained about people being too politically correct Courtesy of @SirTitan45

Twitter user @SirTitan45 was upset as he complained about people being too politically correct
Courtesy of @SirTitan45

It’s one thing to spike someone’s drink if they know it is being done. It’s quite another to do it to potentially sexually assault someone. Sex should always be consensual.

@MXJackMonroe pleaded with people not to spike anyone's drink. Courtesy of @MxJackMonroe

@MXJackMonroe pleaded with people not to spike anyone’s drink. Courtesy of @MxJackMonroe

In days leading up to the ads posting, Bloomingdales typically tweeted three times daily. Bloomingdales has not tweeted since the apology was posted on Nov. 10th.  That makes sense you don’t want people to think you are not sincere about your apology or just returning to “business as usual.”

So they took the right initial steps, which you would expect from a brand of their stature. Executives still need to review their approval and diversity processes immediately. Better yet, the ad should have been left on the editing floor.

 

Bibliography:

Bloomingdale’s history – http://www1.bloomingdales.com/media/about/history.jsp

 

PR Pro Community Virtually Mentoring Others

Leaders build other people up. They know the best way to improve the future is to come together to learn from each other.

Communication leaders are no different.

Ketchum official Stephen Waddington created an interactive community in which communication professionals share publicity/media relations, branding, influencer relations and community focused articles through the #PRStack project.

PRStack includes a downloadable Google spreadsheet with more than 250 websites and apps used by communication professionals daily. Some of the websites are well-known names – Facebook, Google and Bitly to name a few. Other websites, such as Hey Press  – a searchable database to locate journalists, or  it’s sister site, JournoRequests  – a site monitoring journalists’ Twitter feeds as they seek sources and Canva – which allows average people to design eye-popping websites.

Since it requires other people to bestow articles to the project, it is an open-source venture.

Nearly 20 SEO, blogging, content creation and public relations professionals submit stories they write to #PRStack.

The e-book can be downloaded or a printed book can be purchased.