By Rachael Seda (@rachaelseda)
I remember my first PR writing class. While I enjoyed it, I distinctively remember the painstaking feeling of having the creative joy sucked out of me when I had to write my first news release, and again when I wrote my second, and so on. If I didn’t want to read the thing, I couldn’t imagine why a busy reporter would actually care. But of course, as an aspiring communication professional, I kept these feelings to myself. No one else seemed to question their value. Right about this time, Twitter crept into existence, Facebook was now open to anyone and was thriving like a weed and YouTube was right around the corner.
As I embarked on the “real world” I still didn’t tell a soul about the torture I felt every time I was asked to write a news release. The old feelings of creative brain cells slowly dying crept up, but write them I did. One day a couple of years ago I decided to reach out to a communication professional I admire, one of my mentors, Gini Dietrich. Every week Gini answers a question posted on the Arment Dietrich Facebook page via video. To my delight, Gini wasn’t a fan of the news release either. I let out a sigh of relief; I was not the only one.
She later wrote, “I’ve never been a fan of the news release. I’ll go ahead and put it right out there. I think it makes PR pros lazy and clients too controlling. And it typically has no real effect on whether or not a journalist covers your story.”
Ironically, since 2010 (when I was finally able to publicly acknowledge my suppressed feelings of news release torment) I have come to terms with the fact that as a communication professional I’m going to have to write news releases (at least until everyone realizes just how boring they are). What truly gets under my skin though isn’t the press release anymore, it’s how it’s used.
I was recently sitting in a webinar on news releases with my co-workers when the presenter recommended we tweet our news releases to promote them. I felt like gasping out loud. I tried to hold back and finally I just couldn’t. “I just have to say I do not agree,” I blurted. Our intern looked up curiously and asked why. My reasoning? Would you sit down with your friends and read your press release to them? No. Would you read it to a group of prospective new business clients? Would you pass it out to people as you walked down the street? NO. Or at least I hope not.
I have been asked many times to tweet a news release and every time it makes my blood boil. That’s not social. It’s not a conversation. It reminds me of the annoying person that only likes to talk about themselves, constantly. No one cares. It’s like shoving dry cereal down someone’s throat without stopping to offer them milk. And my favorite reason, “if you tweet it the media could see it.” Oh please, I assure you the media isn’t going to pick up your news release because you blasted it on Twitter.
I do believe as communication professionals we should take the time to repurpose the key messages of our news release and create conversational and inspiring content that resonates with our audience, such as a blog post or video, etc. In this way you could feasibly tweet the information in your release but craft it in a way that’s appropriate for that medium. If I was a reporter, I’d be much more inspired to write about an engaging blog post or a creative video any day.
And because I can’t say it any better than Gini did, I will end with a quote from her blog post, No One Cares About Your News Release.
“Social media, content, blogging…this whole digital place we live in is about engagement and intelligent conversation and community building.
It’s not about you. It’s about them.
By posting your news release on your blog or social networks, you’re making it about you. And there is only one person in this entire world who cares about you as much as you do: Your mom.”
Yes, your mom. And I sure hope your mom isn’t your only customer or you may just end up like Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers. I will get off my soap box now.
Image: FindYourSearch via Flickr, CC 2.0
What do you think about news releases? Do you think they have a place on Twitter?