Well noted by Steve Rubel on tide turning against press releases in favor of blogging. He cites a recent post by Google’s associate general counsel Nicole Wong on Google’s blog:
Google has come out swinging, defending their stance in the DOJ search data matter. However, they did not issue a press release. Rather they went with a blog post by Nicole Wong, Associate General Counsel. AP takes notice. I think the tide has turned. The press release is dying. Someone ought to do a study tracking daily press release volumes. I bet they’re decreasing in favor of blogging.
He’s probably right. In a way blogs are perfectly suited to companies needing to get the word out there:
- They’re easy to monitor: Just subscribe to the blog’s feed;
- They don’t need to include lots of repetitive background information
- They don’t need to read like press releases. Savvy companies can choose the tone of the posting to fit the subject matter (Nicole’s was legalistic, naturally enough, concluding that “For all of these reasons, the Court must reject the Government’s Motion”.) The previous posting on the same blog was from Braden Kowitz, User Interface Designer, showing users how to add a heart emoticon to Gmail chat;
- You can overdo the number of press releases but a well-fed blog can never look too well-fed. Too many press releases dull the journalists’ senses, with their forced headlines, jaunty and self-congratulatory style and unexplained technical jargon, meaning journalists may miss a good story because it looks and sounds like all the other press releases.
That all said, there are possible pitfalls:
- Journalists need to be steered towards blogs, and not many of us know what an RSS feed is. You may be missing a big audience — unless that is your Cheneyesque intention;
- Blogs can also be poorly written, leading to misunderstandings, missed stories or poor (or no) publicity. Press releases are generally very badly written, but blogs often are too, sounding like they’re starting halfway through a topic. Not everyone reads everything you write;
- And, as ever, a blog is the beginning of a process, not the end of it. Like press releases, it is no substitute to a good dialog and ready availability of real employees to explain or expand. A good journalist would never just recycle an important press release without, at the very least, checking its authenticity, at best insisting on a phone interview to get more detail and better quotes;
- So a company blog still needs links to the PR department or author of the blog for journalists. Google has an email address on its blog, but nothing for journalists to follow up on. Sadly an absence of contact names, phone numbers and email addresses is also true of most press releases.
Blogs may be replacing press releases. But they shouldn’t be an excuse not to do things properly and give the media what they need. Let’s not allow blogs to make the same mistakes as Internet press releases have made.
Having been on both sides of press releases — creating them and receiving them — it’s clear that they perform a unique function that other forms of communications don’t (yet) perform.
Corporate executives and their PR people spend a great deal of time making sure that press releases are accurate and, more importantly, represent the company’s official view on a topic.
As a journalist, I took press releases as a source of facts that I could count on without additional checking as I wrote the story.
The format of press releases is contorted, and I would rather it be in fact sheet format (“Just the facts, sir.”). But, its format signals that it’s an official statement by the company.
Blogs, on the other hand, are seen as conversational and usually created by one person, without the help of editors, lawyers, or PR people. Even if I see a CEO say something on their blog, I’d feel compelled to confirm those statements before quoting it in an article. (But I’d sure use it in my blog!)
The public relations industry needs to come up with a better format for official messages. Then it won’t matter where they are distributed == wire services, corporate blogs, e-mail — we’ll know how to treat them.