Here’s Why the News Release Has Outlived Its Usefulness

Here’s Why the News Release Has Outlived Its Usefulness

Here’s Why the News Release Has Outlived Its Usefulness 2000 1333 RooneyPartners

By Joe Luongo

In the PR business these days, all the talk about the future of news releases seems focused on the burgeoning use of generative AI. But in the excitement around simplifying what can often be a tedious writing task, a far more essential point is getting lost: issuing news releases at all, whether human or AI-written, is largely a waste of time. 

Nobody seems to track just how many news releases are issued every year. But the team at Cision PR Newswire says that it reviews more than 325,000 press releases annually. That works out to nearly 900 news releases issued per day by just one wire service.

Meanwhile, it’s the worst kept secret in the PR business that many news releases are sent to the wrong journalists. Perhaps that helps explain why the vast majority of PR pitches — more than 97% by one recent measure! — simply don’t generate any press interest.

Talk about an exercise in futility. 

A Firehose of Information
The simple truth is that journalists are overwhelmed by the vast number of news releases that are hurled at them electronically every day.

The chance that they will look at your press release, at the moment you wish them to see it (or ever), is slim to none at best. 

A colleague who got his start in the 1990s working in a busy newsroom described a scene where “news releases flowed in by the hundreds daily over a fax machine. Each release got a two to three second scan, at most, before the majority of them went straight to the trash.”

Digital dissemination, I’m afraid to say, has merely hastened the journey of the typical news release into digital detritus. 

And the reflexive response from most PR pros? The dreaded and counterproductive “follow-up phone call” that annoys journalists more than any non-press people could ever imagine.

A Better Way
The point of a news release is to announce something new, such as an executive appointment, quarterly earnings, or a new product. 

To generate a high-impact piece of media coverage, the far more effective approach in most cases is to jettison the news release and invest the time to understand a reporter’s coverage areas so that you can shape a meaningful story thesis with the potential to yield a feature or profile narrative.

News releases do play an essential role in public company disclosures. But think about it: once the news is disseminated into the public domain via a news release, it’s really no longer “news” at all. That’s why an embargo strategy is often a superior approach. There is still no guarantee of coverage, of course, but the embargo process provides journalists with the time to absorb the news before it’s public, conduct interviews, and shape a story thesis knowing they will have the exclusive. 

In other words, you are guaranteeing a journalist that the news will actually still be newsworthy when their story is published.

If you don’t believe me, check out Barron’s Senior Technology Editor Eric Savitz’s recent LinkedIn post on the subject. Eric argues that companies can get “better, more thorough, and more thoughtful coverage” when the story is developed under embargo. But if you wait until the news release comes out, Eric writes, “there’s a chance I won’t get to your news at all.” 

Like most journalists, Eric doesn’t have the time to cover everything, but as he says, “I can do more if you provide me the material under embargo.”

So I submit: the news release has outlived its usefulness in most of its use cases. For brands and organizations, it focuses time, energy, and attention in the wrong place, and yields a document that virtually all journalists will largely ignore.

Whether your antidote to the ills of the news release is more one-on-one interaction and engagement with journalists or it’s a thoughtful news embargo strategy — or ideally both — one simple truth remains: media relations, just as the name suggests, is very much a relationship business.

Joe Luongo is a Senior Associate at RooneyPartners. A member of the media relations practice, Joe counsels clients in a range of industries, from financial services and technology to consumer products and healthcare.

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