There’s so much more to public relations than the press release. Yet often that is what companies associate the most with PR and assume is their best communications tactic. It’s not, especially for smaller companies that might not have the budget for press releases.
I often advise companies to rely on press releases as little as possible. They’re expensive to distribute over the news wires, for starters — several hundred dollars for one standard release. And most press releases are useless and their impact is much the same as a mass email with no call to action. They get lost in the daily noise and deleted without a second thought.
So what’s the point of a press release and when is one warranted? Here are three instances that call for a press release.
1. You are required to by law.
If yours is a publicly traded company, you have to issue press releases on the regular. You have no choice but to issues press releases to inform the public of material information such as quarterly earnings, dividend declarations, stock splits, changes in leadership and more. At big public companies, there are lots of press releases in the works at all times. For this reason, when I worked in financial services, I tried to limit the press releases I did that were not required by law or regulators. If I wanted reporters to know about the firm’s market outlook or a quotable expert source, I sent a story pitch instead.
2. You are operating in a crisis.
If you are in crisis mode, a press release could be your best bet for communicating with the masses. And because you are in a crisis, your audience’s ears will be perked for communications from you, meaning your press release will be read and published. Examples of crisis could be a product recall, wrongdoing by a team member, death of a senior leader, an inappropriate or offensive tweet that goes viral, a natural disaster that affects operations.
3. You want your news disseminated verbatim — and you can afford it.
Before the internet, when companies issued press releases, the only places that might publish them word for word would be wire services like the Associated Press. But the AP didn’t connect with news consumers directly. Rather it was up to newspapers and broadcast outlets to decide if they would run that information and how it would be edited. The internet has changed all that. Now every news organization has a website it needs to fill with content, and there are a ton of Web-only outlets — like Yahoo! Finance — that didn’t exist before.
Now when companies put out news releases to announce new products, new hires and more, they can expect some websites — from Yahoo! Finance and MarketWatch to local newspaper and TV station websites — to pick it up and publish it word for word. To be clear, this isn’t the same as a news story, and it will be labeled as a press release, but you still get your unfiltered message out into the world.