Do we really need to reinvent the press release?

Last year I did some work for a client who declared the press release to be dead. Instead I found myself working on an ‘e-newsletter’, which to my mind was a press release by any other name.

Marketing professionals have to change their approach to suit the tools of the moment, and certainly the likes of Twitter and Facebook are very ‘now’. But is the press release really dead? Has the need for it gone away? Probably not; it’s merely become unfashionable. And, crucially, you already know how to do one properly (or at least – you may think you know). It has no mystique, no magic. You won’t find features in marketing magazines on “5 Essential Tips For A Great Press Release” or have digital agencies banging on your door to offer consultancy services in Press Release Optimisation. It’s, like, so done.

I wonder, though, if in our eagerness to embrace new channels we’re forgetting how to service the essential existing ones; and that the press release can play an important (if unsexy) role in an integrated marketing strategy.

When I work with motorsport clients I dread the arrival of the word “lifestyle”. It signifies a conviction that the core audience is too geeky by half, and that it is already aware of the sponsors’ branding. We don’t need to speak to them, do we? No, we need the lifestyle audience. We need to shake it up a bit. We need to do something… different.

In the run-up to last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, my inbox filled with communications of varying quality. Some of the teams had clearly fallen prey to reinvention syndrome. Red Bull’s race preview release was just a load of flim-flam about where to go for a good meal and a fun night out in Manama; quirky and on-brand, maybe, but not very useful to anyone outside the cloistered environment of the F1 paddock. Or perhaps they hoped the Sunday Times magazine might think, “Wow! What a great destination! Clear six pages in next week’s issue! Is Michael Winner available? Does he drink Red Bull? I know he’s got a dicky ticker but will he do a bungee jump?”

Above all, a press release has to be useful. It doesn’t have to be sexy. The Cosworth pre-Bahrain release (produced by UKSN contributor Chris Hughes) broke no new ground in the art of the press release but it was packed with concise, timely, useful and relevant information. That’s all you need to ensure that the media use it.

In fact, I’d argue that in the present media climate – where there’s a proliferation of new media outlets, often one-man bands or other shoestring outfits – a tightly written press release is going to be used pretty much word-for-word. I certainly read more about Cosworth last week than I did about where to eat in Bahrain…

About author

Stuart Codling
Stuart Codling 1 posts

Stuart is a journalist and PR consultant with over a decade's experience in the automotive and motorsport sectors. He has provided VIP hosting and speechwriting services for a number of corporate clients, and is the author of the Art of the Formula One Race Car, published by Motorbooks this March. He is also a (long-suffering) fan of Bath Rugby.

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