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Posted on 06.01.2010

Is it really news? Does it matter anymore?

True confession time. My name is Rebecca and sometimes I write news releases about things that aren’t really news. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me explain. You see, I’m one of those people who actually remembers what life was like before Facebook, Twitter and even the Internet made it easy for something seemingly insignificant to reach people far and wide. Back then, press releases were reserved for truly newsworthy events. Frontloaded with the five Ws (who, what, when, where and why), they were designed to stand up to the scrutiny of crusty old journalists who drink their coffee black and smoke at their desks. (Ok, maybe not all of them…but you get the picture.) News had to be just that: news. Things are different now. With many newsrooms operating with a skeleton crew, reporters are increasingly looking for ready-made news. It’s not uncommon to see a press release that would have once made it straight to the circular file actually make it to print. Even if it doesn’t, news releases often find a broader audience online than in traditional media. Wire distribution services such as PR Newswire and Business Wire are now search engine optimized to allow your news release to “live” online in perpetuity. As a result, many companies are opting to release “news” that’s actually more suited for a company newsletter, a white paper or even a corporate brochure than a press release. But that begs the question: should you do it just because you can? Like most things in the PR world, the answer depends on your unique situation and your goals. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you weigh your options.
  • Consider the big picture. Understand that you’re not likey to get widespread press coverage on a news release packed with non-news. But if your goal is to attach yourself to a particular issue or get “on record” with key audiences following your company, it may make sense – especially if you are up against negative news. Even if you don’t get the media coverage you desire, distributing your release via a search engine optimized newswire will ensure that people searching for information about your company get a more balanced look at what you’re all about.
  • Get creative. When it comes to the Internet, fresh news – be it in a press release or a blog post – can go a long way toward combating the negative. While it’s a tactic that shouldn’t be abused, a new release detailing your company’s latest charitable contribution or round of promotions is likely to rank above the article about the lawsuit you settled last month in search engine listings.  At least temporarily.
  • Call your shots. Don’t assume your efforts to “bury” bad news means it will go unnoticed. Releasing other news should never replace direct communication with key audiences on an issue – especially in the event of a crisis.
  • Get personal. Finally, whether you’re announcing a major acquisition or an employee of the month, remember to send copies of the release to your “family and friends” list.
So while the five W’s still have a place in the world, the definition of what is news is shifting daily. If you decide to spread the word for the sake of spreading the word, remember that – as with everything in life – a little common sense and moderation go a long way.

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