The Venerable Press Release Remains the Cornerstone of Public Relations
That staple of 20th century PR is still essential in the digital age.
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For years, we've heard that traditional media from newspapers to television advertising is dead. Yet, somehow, all of these things have not only survived, they've expanded since the advent of the Internet.
Websites and social media have certainly made an impression on the world of marketing, but the vastness of "online" has far from replaced traditional forms of advertising and PR. Traditional press releases are still in use today, and in many cases, are still the best form of communication for vendors to get their products or events noticed. To understand why, let's review the purpose of, and history behind, the press release.
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Traditionally, the first press release is claimed by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, which released an official statement following the tragic deaths of more than 50 people in 1906. Press releases aren't just used to manage crisis situations, however. Companies use this century-old form of communication to talk about any "hard news" they want to tell the public.
In the last 100 years, the format of press releases has been standardized, and has earned its place in journalism by providing verifiable and timely information to reporters who daily generate thousands of articles, radio and TV spots.
With the advent of consumer-friendly search engines in the 1990s and social media in the early 2000s, PR professionals, and the press release with them, had to evolve. Press releases soon became another way to boost a company's online presence. In addition to reaching reporters, press releases became searchable by the general public. Many entrepreneurs trying to generate web traffic flooded the wire with soft bits of "news" containing key search phrases and links back to their company or affiliates.
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While this strategy was initially effective, Google now penalizes websites for producing poorly written articles of any kind by ranking them lower in searches. Eventually, press releases were re-categorized for the purpose of web searches as a form of paid advertising. Previously, individuals posting news to the wire only had to worry that all of their information was factual and well written. Today, anyone releasing a traditional press release should be well versed in the fundamentals of SEO (search engine optimization) and the latest Google search updates.
All of these changes have made the press release an even more vital form of communication than it was in the early 1900s. Distributing a press release is still the fastest and most reliable way to reach the widest cross-section of the media. While social media, Google AdWords, brand based websites, email blasts, banner ads, blogs and a plethora of other new-age technologies are an important part of any marketing strategy – especially for startups – these things will not replace the more formal and far reaching concept of a professional press release.
As new technology emerges, entrepreneurs, marketing and PR professionals will have to find new ways to meet the demands of their audiences. For now, the press release remains a strong foundation to help reach those goals.