Press Releases are Dead Tired — And So is the Debate Over Them

Amy Gahran is challenging PR pros to come up with alternatives to the press release. Now I like Amy, respect her writing and her citizen journalism project, “I, Reporter” (in fact I’ll be talking to some corporate “PR pros” about it next week as an example of the growing CitJ movement.) But am I the only one who finds this topic, well, tired?

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a valid exercise. And no arguement from me that press releases today are about as effective as a sundial during a solar eclipse. The only people who read PR Newswire releases are PR folks and hung over copy desk editors who want to look busy (and sober) when the boss walks by.

Steve Rubel makes some good points. So do B.L. Ochman, Jeremy Pepper, and many others who have been blogging about this topic since the south side of forever. Maybe I’m just in a bad mood because I’m halfway through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and inadvertently learned who dies at the end, but I found the topic boring when I was a full-time journalist, found it boring when I ran a PR agency, and find it boring now as a whatever it is that I now do (if somebody knows, please tell my mom, she’s driving me crazy!)

Asking “Are press releases dead” reminds me of getting high with friends in college and pondering questions like “What if the Earth was as big as the head of pin sitting on top of another pin,” or “Who has the hottest mom” or “Do we really need hands” or “Would you go to war under false pretenses” (okay, that one was from last week.)

It’s not just the press release question, either. Every few months there is another round of “Who is a journalist,” or “Who is a blogger,” or “What is a blog,” or “PR people don’t know how to pitch,” or “Does my blog make me look fat.” It’s entertaining for a while, but like Super Bowls on ESPN Classic, it’s not as interesting when you know how it ends.

These conversations are important to a point – there are always new people who enter the mix, with new ideas to share and offering new things to learn. But at the end of a long day, give me Tom Murphy and his insights on PR Opinions or Jeremy’s interviews with industry leaders. Give me B.L., because there’s nothing more entertaining than a pissed off New Yorker.

And give me Amy Gahran, the writer and CitJ pioneer who is working to train the reporters of the future and break the journalistic conventions of the past. Leave the press release question to Cal State Fullerton PR students and 40-something PR flacks who spend their weekends having long discussions about what happened to Bartles & James wine coolers and whether Ska music will make a real comeback.

Oh, by the way, in case you are wondering: 1) No, press releases are not dead, but they will change (they have to), 2) The Earth is actually a snow globe sitting on a shelf in a bait & tackle shop outside Bangor, Maine, 3) the hottest mom is any mom except your own, 4) we need hands, but the jury is still out on earlobes, and 5) not me, but I voted for the other guy.

6 thoughts on “Press Releases are Dead Tired — And So is the Debate Over Them

  1. Your post had a possibly unintentional result. I have researched the current status of Bartles & Jaymes. I was thinking about issuing a press release about this, but changed my mind.
    I work in marketing for a Fortune 500 company, and our local general manager has instructed us to concentrate less on press releases, and to concentrate more on other media placement (for example, mentions in trade articles). So far the strategy has worked well.

  2. Ontario, your post is brilliant. Next time I choose to make fun of a beverage, I’ll pick on Zima. And next time I will also check my spelling (Bartles & Jaymes, thank you). Sometimes I do miss having an editor 🙂

  3. As long as we realize that ALL of us (even the best of us) need an editor, we’ll be OK. The frustrating thing is when people DON’T realize they need an editor. Earlier this week, my company’s PR department issued a public statement to our customers that referenced the “critical roll” that our product plays in their operations. I gently pointed out to the PR person that our product plays a critical ROLE, not roll. (We are not a food company.)

  4. Pointing You To A Couple Of Updates

    As I ambled through my newsreader this Sunday morning, I found a couple of interesting updates to the news releases are dead conversation.
    The first is from Kevin Dugan at Strategic Public Relations. He recommends 12 alternatives for reaching out to…

  5. And thank you for your retort (measuring bloggers by legacy journalistic standards)

    In which musings on the role of blogger-journalists morph (in the comments) into musings on the late David Rufkahr (a/k/a “Frank Bartles”), originally inspired by tired musings on the “debate” over press releases, which led to musings on the role of no…

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