In my opinion, the basic design of press releases and the methods of their usage have not changed since the Middle Ages. When I explicitly assert this claim, and I do so often, people usually raise a brow and ask themselves: ”What is he talking about?”
Hello there, my name is Martin Garbarczyk and I work at MyNewsdesk’s Öresund office. The reason why I’m now writing my very first blog entry ever is because I want to shed some light on a term that I often use during the 2.5 years I’ve been at MyNewsdesk: “the medieval press release”.
Imagine what a “press release” looked like about 500 or 600 years ago. A headline, for example “The Queen is dead”, and an explanation of what had happened was written on a scroll. The scroll was then rolled up and given to a messenger on a horse (perhaps a knight, perhaps a knave), who would then “distribute” the news to all the Queen’s subjects, usually by reading the news out loud in village squares around the kingdom.
Photograph: Mats Roslund http://www.hd.se
Sounds like a pretty ancient and ineffective way of working, right? Well, what I notice every day is that many communicators still use essentially the same method in the modern-day PR landscape.
Today, press releases are usually written up in a Word document or saved as a PDF file. Usually, these consist of a headline and a page of black-and-white lines of text. The release is then sent out through closed email systems like Outlook, preventing search engines from indexing it. Then, these press releases are distributed to a giant, all-encompassing, and constantly updated media database, in the hope that someone listed in that database or distribution list is interested in what you are saying.
Is this really the best way of sending out press releases?
I’ve spoken to many journalists and editorial staff about this. They conclude that in 2010, we have to give our readers, friends, followers, or fans relevant information, delivered as effectively as possible. Essentially, it comes down to good service. Press releases should include images and links to high-resolution versions of these. They should indicate which people you should contact about the subject and how to reach them. Videos, supporting documents, product flyers, and previous press releases should also be attached.
Based on what these journalists have taught me, and based on how I would like to receive newsflashes myself, I try to help the communicators I work with.
My advice to you: drop that medieval scroll and step out of the Middle Ages.
In today’s media landscape, services such as PitchEngine, Cision, Hugin, as well as MyNewsdesk, have created PR and communication tools that allow you to share your press release with a targeted audience via the web.
Here’s what to keep in mind when using these services:
- Press releases, media kits, newsflashes and articles mean the same thing to me. Regardless of the “label” you put on your message, it is important that this message delivers relevant information to a relevant audience, and that it is enriched by images, videos, documents, and resource links.
- For all those that have stopped using medieval press releases, it is a given that their audience should be able to share, recommend, comment, or blog about the news release they just received. It has become essential to take certain risks and encourage people to spread your messages on their terms, even if it means that you lose control over it.
- It is also essential that search engines are able index all your press information. This means you have to use tools and platforms that help to search-engine optimize your press material, making it easy for interested people to find your messages easily. In the end, you may notice that you reach a completely new audience of equal importance to your established one.
- Uploading your press material to social media channels like Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, SlideShare, WordPress, or Facebook should happen at a click of a button. And I don’t just mean Share This, Tweet, or Like buttons. You should be able to synchronize your distribution to all channels via a single method. This results in saving valuable time, as well as having homogenous and consistent message on every communication platform you use.
- Read up on Creative Commons here. Essential reading!
Here are some great examples of press releases sent through MyNewsdesk:
I think these are perfect examples of what I’ve been writing about, because they meet all the criteria I find important when designing a news release. All important and related information is attached or linked to, so that I don’t have to search the web if I want to know or find more material.
Call it what you want: Social Media News Releae, Multimedia News Release, VNR, or some other cool buzzword. I just call it “a newsflash that makes me want to read more.”
So there you have it. I’d like to end by saying that I’d like to learn more from you about this subject. Please write down your thoughts and feedback, even if you totally disagree with what I’ve been writing! You can leave a comment here or contact me directly on Twitter or email!
Thank you and all the best,
Ps. Thank you to Mats Roslund at HD.se for the fantastic picture.