A large part of public relations work is centered around forming press releases. Considering the world of public relations is evolving into more of an advertising and digital world, will the press release become irrelevant? Many experts think that the idea of press releases will diminish as we approach more social media, but my thought on it is that they will diminish in content, not necessarily in frequency.
Press releases were first practiced by Ivy Lee, who was also seen as the father of public relations. In 1906 Lee released a news statement by the Pennsylvania Railroad (his client at the time) who had just caused a train wreck killing 50 people. Lee divulged the truth and stuck to his principles of no longer ignoring the public. Lee did many other things for the railroad company including “leaflets, folders, and bulletins for customers, company news for employees, and other material for important decision makers” (The History of Public Relations, 30).
Continuing the practice of press releases, public relations professionals have now adapted from Lee’s news release of the truth, to a social media release where there is less information and more links and sources. The question is, where do press releases go from here? Experts have noted that the way to go depends on the way that people are consuming media. Currently people use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc. Consuming media seems like it will change into more of a personalized news stream, or shared news. In other words, instead of the press release being a push concept, it will become more of a pull concept; a lasting concept that will draw viewers in, rather than force the news upon them. The channels to which we release press releases will more than likely change as well with how people are consuming media. Currently, applications such as Radian6 (socialmediacloud) are helpful resources in noticing where consumers are venturing to for news. On their website it explains that Radian6 will “gain insight into conversations about your brand, competition and industry. Engage your community to build advocacy and drive sales.”
Tools such as these will help as public relations practitioners adapt to the changing times. In an article titled “What does the future hold for press releases?” by Michael Nowian, he states that he feels that press releases will not become a dead practice, as do I, for the reasons listed here:
- Audiences will continue to play an important role in shaping how news and information is published and shared.
- Enhancements to the content and structure of the press release will continue to evolve.
- Consumer demand for relevant, customizable and portable content will continue to increase.
It is hard to predict what the future will bring technology-wise, and therefore it is hard to determine where consumers will go to gather their news, but it can be noted that the single most important think for public relations professionals to do, is to keep up on the times. Do not settle for what is working now, because soon enough we will have to adapt to new sources of communication. Another article by Erica Swallow, “The Future of Public Relations and Social Media,” also helps determine the outcome of press releases, and she has referenced many credible public relations enthusiasts on their viewpoint.