Sunday, July 5, 2009

Have press releases become dinosaurs?

I come from old school journalism, the era of "who, what, when, where & why" and a good, craftily written lead. I pounded a beat for years, surviving on my investigative skills to scoop the other daily papers.

And as the business of journalism has shifted due to our digital society, I flowed with it. I know the idea of the scoop is obsolete; no such thing when the info is spinning the Web moments after it is released.

I can remember the days when press releases were our meat and potatoes, especially when a 5 p.m. deadline is looming and an editor is peering over your shoulder. In my freelance business, I have written many, many press releases for clients, aiming that arrow at the usual print sources. They have always a been a great tool to get the word out.

I wasn't ready for the NY Times article I read today in the Sunday Business section. It seems the press release is dead. And I didn't even get to go to the wake.

We live our lives online, and more often than not that's where we obtain our news. (I still read the newspapers, too, call me kooky.) And those broadcasting the news online aren't journalists in the traditional sense, but just as savvy at disseminating the breaking news. So with this, PR has morphed.

Press releases are no more. Not when we can send the same tidbit out in 140 characters or less on Twitter, or post it on Facebook or Digg. Or blog about it, as I am doing now. PR has turned a sharp corner, bypassing the old media and courting the online pundits instead, where potentially millions of people can be reached in mere nanoseconds. The seduction is obvious.

And while I mourn the loss of the old ways, I have to also celebrate the information superhighway we travel on. When anything big happens in the world, we know about it instantly, and of course, we've become addicts.

It has changed the way I run my small business. Marketing and PR have become paperless, in lieu of our e-world. A couple of clicks and I can tweet my own horn; no need to write those pesky press releases anymore.

Social media has become vital to business, almost overnight. I have rolled with the punches. And who knows? Maybe tomorrow the medium will change. But the messages will stay the same. And hopefully, our communications will still be based on relationships.
However virtual they may be.

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