Stephens got an interesting view on this one. We do disagree (I think they do matter) – as he suggests we might – but not by that much. I view the press release as a technical device for notifying media of news from publicly traded companies. That’s about it.
They are of less and less value (think steeply declining curve) as communications tools due to the ubiquity of email, Internet, wire services, blogs, RSS… And, the era of authenticity we’ve entered into questions their tone – and resulting credibility. But the era of transparency we’re in also demands their utility. In my posts below on the Web vs. the Blogosphere you can pretty much replace the Web column with Press Releases.
What Stephen points to though is the need for all communicators to listen to their constituents. How many communicators take the time to ask those constituents how they want to receive news? One of the challenges for any communicator is reaching the full spectrum of buyers, influencers and messengers that make up an audience set. Stephen is a sophisticated influencer and messenger in the upper quadrant of connectivity and engagement. Others will be at in the lower left quadrant – not connected big-time and engaged on an adhoc basis. Technical requirements aside, blogs and press releases represent optimal solutions for different constituent profiles.
Participatory Communications is about just that, participation. I suspect Southwest Airlines effort to raise the visibility of its issues with regard to the Wright Amendment will be much better served by the Internet than by any press release. I love the fact they are inviting their community to engage in their efforts – especially given we have as much of a vested interest in them succeeding as they do. (What a great URL as well!)
Where I also agree with Stephen is that most press releases are crap. Yes, crap. But lets not burn the release just because they aren’t being executed well. Bad writing. Terrible legal intervention. Risk and conflict averse communicators. And no news angle/hook are doing as much to destroy the value of news releases as anything.
And here is where Stephen and I violently agree – language and framing matters – until communicators upgrade their efforts in this area then the relevance of the press release is the least of their worries. The real issue is their own relevance. Their relevance to their constituents. And their relevance to the business.