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The End of the Press Release

Patrick Ruffini

Patrick Ruffini

Our friend Jonathan Rick notes an interesting trend: more big companies are eschewing the traditional press release, and are announcing news in first-person media like blogs and Twitter:

Indeed, as Claire Cain Miller reported in a much-discussed article last week, the pr agency representing Flickr never issued a release on its behalf-not even when Yahoo acquired the photo-sharing Web site. Similarly, when Google has exciting news to share, it does not use a wire service.

Rather, both companies self-publish blog posts. They do so, I suspect, not because blogs are hipper, but because they’re more genuine, more personal, and more flexible than their old media counterparts. Instead of a flack ghostwriting quotes for a CEO, the individual(s) who managed the project can craft a first-person narrative recounting the project’s past, present and future with pictures and videos and links. Then, as other bloggers pick up the post, “two days later, BusinessWeek calls,” as Donna Sokolsky Burke, of Spark PR, puts it.

As Jon hints at, this is more than just a format change, but part of a revolt against contrived speech.

What social media gives powerful people from politicians to CEOs is an opportunity to communicate big ideas on their own terms, in media they personally create. Being on Twitter has created a paradigm shift for many a celebrity and political figure — either for good or occasional chagrin. You mean I can say what I actually think, in my own words, right now? It’s amazing how bad P.R. has made this basic principle of everyday human interaction seem somehow alien and unexpected.

With a built-in audience of bloggers and social media influentials who will carry your message (big caveat: if it’s interesting), it’s no longer necessary to go for the hard sell, or for that perfectly crafted quote that will show up in the paper. Bloggers are all about authentic voice; what they say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.

Getting in the papers is a nice bonus, but secondary to building a direct constituency for your product or candidate online. If your story is naturally interesting, or even better, can be vouched for in real time by thousands of people congregating online, the media will have no choice but to report on it. When reading up on the latest tech or political trend, mainstream media is usually the last place I hear about something, the final validator of whether something is important or not — usually after it’s been dissected to death in the blogosphere.

This doesn’t mean it’s not important to get your story out to the press, but even the press is no longer reading canned press releases. Increasingly, blogs are the assignment desks for mainstream media — the place where reporters go to get the pulse of the digerati. Indeed, many mainstream reporters, like ABC’s Jake Tapper, break news through their own blogs.

For my part, I can’t promise I’ll never use a wire service. But the stuff I’d put out on it would probably look a lot like the following: “Candidate X just posted the following to his blog: LINK.”

  • Four Ways to Rethink the Press Release - Jonathan Rick, No Straw Men

    2012-04-06 20:18:21

    [...] an old shoe, the press release has been around forever. Every year seems to bring another proclamation that it’s on its last legs. While the rumors are exaggerated, they emerge from a stubborn truth: [...]

  • Gerafiolina

    2009-10-23 05:09:01

    Мне кажется или писатель что-то недоговаривает

  • Jonathan Rick

    2009-07-12 02:48:31

    Thanks for the link and the thoughtful elaboration, Patrick. Love your last line about releases from Engage: "Candidate X just posted the following to his blog: [link]."

  • Prosthetic Device: Changing Work Conditions: From Formal to Informal

    2009-07-10 18:07:37

    [...] enlarges on an excerpt from a post by Jonathan Rick at Tech Republican riffing on the idea that the formal press release is throwing off its corporate uniform for khakis and a polo [...]