The debate over whether PR and communications pros should bother with press releases is ongoing. It’s not that the tide has completely turned against the press release, it’s more of an ebb and flow, but in the transition to a ‘digital marketing mindset’, its value is once again being questioned and its place in digital marketing seems uncertain.

Marketers, taking the easy option are just relying on newswire services that, at the press of the button, see their releases published by hundreds of machine pickups. These releases will have never crossed the news desk of a living journalist.

But hang on for a minute: what do people other than marketers think? I’ve never seen any research or study which has completely written off the press release, in fact as the Cision 2019 Global State of the Media Report points out, when journalists were asked what type of content they want to receive, 71% said news announcements and press releases – and this has been the top answer for the past four years!

Learning how to write a press release remains a crucial skill for communications pros but understanding why to write a press release in the first place is equally important if you want to deploy it as an effective tool in your communications strategy.

The pattern of communication
First and foremost, a press release really isn’t just about the press release. When we talk about the value of a release, what we are talking about is its value as part of a continuous pattern of communication coming from a business or brand.

In isolation a single press release won’t have a huge impact. It may get people’s attention and draw their eye to a particular piece of company news or development, but this moment will be fleeting and soon forgotten about if not proactively followed up with a pattern of communications activity. A press release is the one tool at your disposal where you can talk though the media about your company’s products, services, customers and growth – try putting that into a thought leadership article and getting a journalist to use it!

The aim of the game in B2B communications is to build credibility, trust and momentum. A regular pattern of strategic communications through the relevant channels and targeted at the right audience will achieve this – and press releases are an essential ingredient.

A press release distributed to journalists and the media is one of these channels. That means distributing directly to the inbox of the journalist and NOT through a newswire. That’s good background noise but is not helping your media engagement program. Journalists are still the gatekeepers to media coverage, and the third-party endorsement a company can get from coverage in recognized and respected media outlets is still one of the best ways to build credibility.

This is why a B2B organization should use press releases and news announcements to build up a picture of its business in the minds of the media and their audience. Communicating company news through the media signals chosen aspects of your brand or product that you want people to know.

A peg to hang it all on
All news stories need a news angle and without it no journalist is likely to take a second glance at your release. It might be a release around a marquee customer – which is a great peg but not always available! It could be your latest product and its innovative technology, or a new executive appointed to drive new market penetration.

The hidden agendas
The customer story or new product is the news peg to grab the attention of the target journalist and hang all these important company messages on – but any press release should never really be ‘one message’.

The hidden agenda of the story about a customer win, new product, partnership or company results will be signalling success in certain markets, demonstrating leadership, positioning a company around a key technology or service and highlighting a USP in real-world context.

Relevant? Yes. The only game in town? No
If you are solely relying on press releases and news announcements to communicate your B2B brand, you’re doing it wrong. If you are not using them at all, you’re missing a trick.

The key is to pick the stories deserving of a release. Not all of them will be earth shattering but all should be written to attract the interest of a trained journalist. Remember, there a lot of other channels we can use in addition to press releases that perform a different job.

A regular pattern of content including social, blogs, thought leadership, infographics, whitepapers, case studies and market analyses all add to the full pattern of activity that makes up a proactive media communications strategy.

By Simon Woolley, Content Marketing Specialist at IBA International.

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