For debate: Is the press release dead?

Both within the industry and outside of it, there is a lot of debate on whether or not the press release is ‘dead’. It’s reached the point where Google knows exactly what’s up.

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Not only does ‘Is the press release dead’ beat the very important questions of if the press is biased or capitalized, but the search results will fill with articles sitting on both sides of the fence.

So how do you know if a press release is worth your time or not? Let’s look at both sides.

The press release is dead

If the wake is long over for this well-known PR tool, then we blame over-use. Reporters and influencers are overwhelmed with releases in their inboxes daily. They’re often overwritten, vague, and far too sales-focused to be worth their time. And when Google changed their algorithms to no longer allow press releases to boost SEO, it was a big hit to the modern usefulness of the press release.

So the biggest reason the press release is considered to be dead? Reporters don’t care about them anymore. There are some editors still around who like to have the release, but they ask for it after they’ve gained interest in the story. And the reason reporters no longer care about press releases circles back to lacklustre content.

The press release is alive

The press release can be used to show transparency as a brand, especially for larger corporations. In the US in particular, the SEC keeps the press release alive because of “fair disclosure”. Publicly traded companies use a newswire service to publish news in a way that won’t have them in trouble with the SEC. Canada, of course, has its own version of the SEC that’s far less known, and we do tend to follow in the footsteps of our southern neighbours when it comes to business practices.

Additionally, a press release can help build a brand’s credibility and authority with both customers and the media. It shows that a business takes PR seriously. It can also communicate information that doesn’t quite fit on a blog or a social media post.

In our experience, we have received earned media thanks to a press release. Often, parts of the release have been shared verbatim in the final article. But this happened in very specific situations where either time was of the essence or it was of high news-value.

We’ve also used press releases in developing content in the past, particularly for sharing information on new studies or results from interesting surveys. Examples of this can be seen with this post on how side hustlers are boosting the economy, or this post commenting on how Canadians are committing to work-life balance. Both of these articles were written because of a press release.

So the answer is?

A templated, boring press release is dead, yes. But there’s still value in expertly crafted, informative, and engaging press releases. It’s a matter of quality – not quantity – and how the release is used. It’s only one part of the pitching strategy, not the sole item released to media. It cannot be a sales tool, nor should it be used to boost the ego of a business owner. And it shouldn’t be used for any and every bit of information a business produces.

We still stand behind the press release, but we don’t use it for every client or project. If a release will work to strengthen the strategy and help to drive results, that’s when a high-quality press release will be pulled in.

Megan te Boekhorst

I brought my West Coast soul to the city of Toronto in order to build the creative empire of my dreams. In 2018, I started Sequoia Content Studio, a boutique PR and content agency that supports lifestyle businesses not only tell their story, but ensure it actually gets heard. Just two weeks before the launch, I was honoured to be named PR in Canada's PR Person of the Year. Life has been non-stop ever since.

I live boldly, believe in raw honesty, and value unapologetic vulnerability. Living with depression, I've always had a voice in my head yelling at me, telling me I'm not enough and my work isn't enough. This voice is all too common for creatives. So I'm dedicated to creating authentic content and experiences that empower young creatives to build meaningful businesses, and meaningful lives.

Isn't it time you start living #thesequoialife?