Press Release deadSpeaking to an association of public relations professionals last week, the UK’s executive director of government communications, Alex Aiken, called the press release dead.

As reported by Kate McGee (@katemagee) of PRWeek (@prweekuknews), Aiken told the group,

The press release is dead.  The “cosy” process of writing a press release and sending it out to journalists was “just telesales.”

And to replace the press release?

You should not start with three pages of A4, but a tweet, an infographic or a video. If you are writing more than 200 words on any subject, you’re probably in the wrong place.

Rather than multiple press releases, Aiken sees regular tweeting. This way organizations are going where the audience is, rather than looking to broadcast at the audience.

This is the end of the big budget advertising and marketing campaigns. We will have to dip into the tool box and broadcast now and again, but it is no longer ‘SOS’ (Send Out Stuff).” Instead, it is about ‘OASIS’ – press officers thinking about objective, audience, strategy, implementation and scoring.

Is the press release really dead? How about in the legal industry?

We see a steady supply of press releases posted to law firm websites, releases presumably distributed across media channels. I know I get multiple press releases a day by email.

Little question social media has leveled the field between citizen journalists and reporters. Reporters can find stories and research directly from blogs and social media. Reporters don’t need to rely on a press release from a PR agency.

It’s a legitimate question to ask, “Does it still mean anything to send press release to editors and reporters?” How about to send a press release to bloggers?

My gut tells me press releases have some lasting value in the law.

  • Reporters will still take a story, and, in the case of a publisher. perhaps an entire piece, from a reliable and trusted source. Good public relations professionals develop and maintain relationships with the media – both mainstream and bloggers.
  • Lawyers and law firms need help developing copy that’s ‘social media worthy,’ which copy can be used to engage journalists on social media, whether it be via blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Many public relation’s agencies are hiring and training professionals in this area. Some of this copy may be akin to a press release to get a story out.
  • Law is lagging a bit as an industry, both on the reporting side and on the law firm communications side. Things have not progressed as rapidly as in the popular and news press. This makes for more of an opportunity for a press release.
  • Most, but not every journalist is social media savvy. A press release may be viewed as a favor or of help to many journalists. Perhaps to even those who are social savvy.
  • Copy from professionals often reads better.

I also believe that real and meaningful relations with reporters and editors, legal media and otherwise, developed via blogging and other social media are now just as important, if not more important, than a press release.

As a lawyer, you connect with and engage with reporters in a meaningful way. You establish mutual trust by sharing each others’ stories via social networks. You establish yourself as a reliable and trusted authority in a niche so a reporter feels comfortable quoting your blog or calling you. You’re establishing a competitive edge over other lawyers.

What do you think? Are press releases dead? Are they going away?

Update: Conner O’Keefe (@connerokeefe), who does some intern work at LexBlog, tells me from first hand experience that law firm press releases help a good deal when looking for background information on people at a law firm. So in addition to distribution to the media, press releases, indexed on Google, provide additional value to a law firm.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Charlie Dave.