While I’m definitely not of the mindset that says press releases should be eliminated altogether from modern marketing, I am a believer that some change must occur. My friend and colleague Brian Solis has written numerous times on the topic (here are two great recent examples) of the social media release, which is definitely a concept to watch and nurture. Some companies issue none. Others issue them seemingly constantly. As with all things, the pendulum works better in the middle than at either extreme. But for now I’m going to talk about the over inundation I see too many companies fall too guilty of issuing.
When I was first being exposed to PR firms several years ago, they’d often talk about “creating a regular flow of news” and how important it was to issue releases on a predetermined frequency. At first blush, this makes a ton of sense, as it keeps your company on the radar of the journalists you are targeting. But with any deeper thinking, this strategy should be quickly thrown out the window. It comes with accepting a key flaw in outbound marketing practices: you must start by acknowledging that press releases are noise, and the process of issuing them is creating more noise in a very very noisy place.
As a marketing strategist, I certainly am quick to say press releases are important and remain a valuable tool for communications and outreach. But by accepting the inherent problem of “being noisy” I can craft big picture strategies that make the noise a lot easier to tolerate. And let’s face it, journalists today have such an incredible amount of noise to face that senior writers are putting on Bose Noise-Canceling Headsets just to get through the day (personally I use Shure’s, but that’s a personal preference). The best example I can point to is Wired Magazine’s Chris Anderson’s rant against “PR People” last October.
Chris, like many of his peers, was fed up with the noise. But it’s not the general noise of facing press releases and pitches that he and others complain about, it’s the vapid nature of so much of the content. It’s one thing to issue genuine news such as new product releases (or recalls), major technology shifts, executive hirings/firings, etc. It’s another thing to issue a release for any trivial update your company does, just to keep hitting the rhythm of the drum. I’ve seen releases announcing the use of a piece of accounting software, or hiring a new law firm, or the availability of an executive to speak on a given topic. I’m going to pick on a release Epson issued, only because I saw a release of theirs float through last week that was the catalyst for this post (sorry Epson, I like your company, but this is a perfect example). The headline was:
Epson Stylus C120 Chosen for Printing Academy Awards Ceremony Credentials While MovieMate Projects ‘Oscar’s Greatest Moments’
You can read the rest of the release here. While I’m sure Epson is happy to have this designation, I am dismayed that the only way they chose to market the information was via a press release. I can’t imagine ANY publication that would be interested in this news. Well, perhaps “Inside the Academy Awards Productions Weekly” but other than that, it’s just noise. Further, a Google News search seems to have proven me right (it has no results, other than the press release itself).
It’s these abuses of the the system that make the noise unbearable. I truly believe you do your company a huge disservice by issuing these releases, whether you are an internal PR manager or an external agency. Your company’s brand is not enhanced, but is instead tarnished by such activities. Instead of taking mild news (or worse, non-news) and just letting it happen, you attract a negative piece of attention to yourself. And you should stop.
Noise does not make your company look better. There are better and better noise-blocking tools available to reporters, journalists, and bloggers than ever before. You can’t just win by turning up the volume, instead, you need to learn to play better music, and it’s not just about the rhythm section.