Back on Sept. 13, Simon Dumenco wrote an article in Advertising Age entitled, "RIP, the Press Release (1906-2010) -- and Long Live the Tweet." I was in Ireland at the time, and it wasn't until yesterday that I read that "the long-suffering, much-maligned press release" had "finally died this summer."
This isn't the first time that someone has prematurely declared that the press release is dead.
Back on February 27, 2006, Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher wrote the now classic column entitled, "Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!"
Now, no marketing tactic lives forever. But the press release must feel like Mark Twain.
In 1897, when a journalist was sent to inquire about Twain's health, thinking he was near to death, Twain explained that it was his cousin who was ill. He later recounted the event in The New York Journal, using his famous words, "The report of my death is an exaggeration" (which is usually misquoted as "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
In 1907, when the steam yacht that Twain was traveling on was delayed by fog, The New York Times reported that he might have been "lost at sea." ". Upon arriving safely in New York and learning of this, Twain wrote a satirical article about the episode, offering to "make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public."
So, what's the story behind the story?
Each time The Dead Collector calls out, "Bring out yer dead," some journalist starts acting like The Large Man with Dead Body in the 1975 movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Although the press release says, "I'm not dead...I'm getting better," the journalist tries to silence the release with a whack of his club.
But blogs, Technorati, Digg, and Delicious didn't kill the press release in 2006 and Twitter hasn't killed it in 2010.
According to the 2010 PRWeek/PR Newswire Media Survey, journalists use a variety of tools when during the course of research for a story. Ninety-five percent use Google/search engines, 93 percent use the company web site, 47 percent use Wikipedia, 36 percent use the web site of a commercial newswire, 34 percent use the company blog, 33 percent use social networks, 32 percent use general blogs, and 19 percent use LexisNexis/Factiva.
And when journalists use Google News or Yahoo! News, they will still find the headlines of press releases along with a snippet of text in the results -- especially if the press releases have been optimized for relevant terms. So, why stop using optimized press releases when 95 percent of journalists use search?
Yes, yes, about a third of journalists also use blogs and social networks. So, you want to add blog outreach and social media marketing to your online PR campaign. In other words, you don't need to kill off the press release in order to make room for blogs and Twitter.
Nevertheless, it is getting harder and harder to optimize press releases for news search engines. Why? Because more and more news media are optimizing their articles for news search engines.
At SES San Francisco, I interviewed Topher Cohen of CNN about what's next for news search optimization. He's been optimizing articles for news search engines for years.
Over the past year, I've also interviewed:
- Brent Payne of the Tribune,
- Matthew Brown of The New York Times,
- Allison Fabella of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
- Paul Roach of the Guardian.co.uk, and
- Julian Sambles of The Telegraph.
All of these SEOs are all working with journalists to optimize their articles for news search engines.
So, yes, it's getting harder to optimize press releases because they are facing more competition -- and the competition is the news media itself. This doesn't mean that the optimized press release is dead.
In fact, the optimized press release is alive and kicking.
A test conducted in April 2010 by SEO-PR for Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, compared the results generated by a normal news release with an optimized press release. Both releases included links to a landing page on the Rutgers website with more information about a new executive education course.
First, the university distributed a normal news release with a headline that generated a story and a nice spike in views on the landing page. A week later, SEO-PR distributed an optimized press release that generated a blog post, 225 tweets, a spike in page views that was twice as large as the previous one, and the first registration for the course.
So, rumors of the press release's death have been greatly exaggerated, again.
A few years from now, someone should make another exhaustive investigation and, if there is any foundation for the report, should at once apprise the anxious public.
Get it? Got it? Good.