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The Press Release: Vital and Valuable in the Digital World

A guest post by Daniella DelaOsa, The Zimmerman Agency


Long debated and well established, the press release is a traditional, yet essential marketing tool. By definition, a press release is communication directed at the media for the purpose of announcing something newsworthy. Creating and distributing press releases is an essential part of a well-rounded marketing plan because of the lasting effect widespread distribution can have on a business or organization.

While there is plenty of argument surrounding the press release as “outdated,” this marketing tool has been modernized and adapted to the online media landscape. Well-written press releases create defining content and are a great opportunity for business owners, marketers, and PR professionals alike. Among many advantages, press releases increase:

  • Online presence
  • Customer consideration and interaction
  • Credibility within an industry
  • Opportunities to establish media relations
  • Social relevance
  • Traffic and, as a result, sales

Well-written, well-formatted, and well-thought-out press releases have the ability to bring visibility and industry influence to an organization, client, or personal business. Mastering press release creation and distribution is a key skill in public relations. As a millennial marketer, crafting a captivating press release provides added credibility to communications and creates the opportunity to develop deeper, more impactful media relations.


Old Reliable Can Still Be Effective

With the fast pace of technology, it is no surprise what is considered “media” shifts, changes, and evolves, leaving us wondering if traditional techniques are still applicable. Take bloggers, community forums, podcasts, and social media stars — the fast pace of media’s evolution presents constant new opportunities for publicity and all types of journalists carry influence. New media has created a plethora of new channels and in turn, much more ground to cover, if the goal is to saturate the media with a timely news piece.

Press releases allow for across-the-board saturation of widely read outlets, creating a possible “trickle effect” where a journalist is likely to stumble on news and reach out for more details or a follow-up piece. Additionally, when press releases are picked up by news outlets, they provide cues for journalists to know what audiences are talking about and interested in.

This is especially true with social media. For many journalists and readers, social media is a way of life and a primary source of news and information. For marketers, this provides an opportunity to build faster, more direct media relationships, and identify key audiences by keeping tabs on the news organizations that readers follow.


Continuing Value of Press Releases

Today, successful marketers know that achieving success with press releases relies on a few key factors, such as telling a story, having current relevance, personalizing the pitch, and understanding the publication as well as the journalist’s beat.

As such, a press release must first and foremost bring value to the journalist, but also be supported by a strong media relations strategy. For instance, a small business opening its first store would not need to invest in a large national press release package and may instead opt for online-only distribution, supported by direct pitching to media contacts in their local and regional market. However, should that same small business see a 200 percent spike in revenue in a few years and grow to operate hundreds of franchises, that is a story worthy of larger distribution and support strategy.

In any instance, marketers and business owners should never consider the press release in a vacuum. An impactful press release will be supported by a tactful media strategy in order to achieve the desired influence, consumer engagement, or other goal.


All Hail The Pitch

You’ve got your press release, you’ve got your media list, now you need the pitch — the “make it or break it” factor of a campaign. Short, informative, professional, and captivating, the pitch should not only suggest a journalist covers a story, but also directly answer the question of why they should. Journalists can receive hundreds of pitches a day. Therefore, a pitch must be absolutely perfect for your story to gain traction.

A team from Communications@Syracuse, the online Master of Science in Communications program from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, recently surveyed 25 key professionals from highly ranked agencies on O’Dwyer’s annual top PR firm rankings. They were asked: “What is the most crucial element of a PR pitch?”

From “deep understanding of the reporter’s readers” to “customizing will always yield the best results,” and “your pitch must answer the question ‘why now?’ ” —  the surveyed PR pros shared the same sentiment. Notably, the responses continually stressed the importance timing, relevance, and personalization as key factors in the success or failure of a pitch.

When a pitch is successful, and results in coverage by a trusted third-party source, your message will stand out. Stories written by a third-party source are more trusted by consumers and as a result, bring greater value to your business than traditional advertising or promotional avenues. A recent study by Nielsen shows that earned media — credible, third-party articles — is the most important source for impacting consumer decisions.

It’s this type of result that ensures press releases will adapt and live on. Effective and valuable, press releases will continue to be an important part of digital media strategy, especially when they have the power to steer social conversations and bring lasting influence.


Daniella is a Senior Account Manager at The Zimmerman Agency in Tallahassee, FL where she specializes in global PR efforts for hospitality and tourism brands. She is a graduate of Florida State University where she majored in English: Editing, Writing & the Media.