I read with some amusement (and agreement) Tom Foremski's rant titled Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!. I believe it's safe to say that his main beefs are laid out in this excerpt:

Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes. Often they will contain quotes from C-level executives praising their customer focus. They often contain praise from analysts, (who are almost always paid or have a customer relationship.) And so on...
Press releases are created by committees, edited by lawyers, and then sent out at great expense through Businesswire or PRnewswire to reach the digital and physical trash bins of tens of thousands of journalists.
This madness has to end. It is wasted time and effort by hundreds of thousands of professionals.

He goes on to propose a solution that involves assembling and tagging the raw materials that usually go into making a press release. It all sounds a bit odd to me, but I'm not usually the primary target of most press releases. Of course, that doesn't seem to stop them from ending up in my inbox.

I think the real solution is for journalists to do their homework on announcements. Rather than trying to be "first" with a story (which rarely happens on big announcements unless you break the embargo), be most informative. Be the one who sees news for what it is, not what the company says it is.

Would that behavior actually be rewarded by editors and readers?

I have no idea. History suggests otherwise. More on that (and my new favorite book) later.

Posted by jzawodn at February 28, 2006 10:35 PM

Reader Comments
# Joe Beaulaurier said:

It all rolls up from reader/viewer attention. As long as media (print/electronic/etc) can get away with putting fluff in front of their audiences, companies will spend enormous amounts of time to provide the fluff that favors them. It doesn't only occur in print as you've probably noted for the past several years many the "news" stories on television are simply press releases produced by companies and organizations.

And the audiences sponge it up or at least don't flip the channel or disregard the publication as a another waste of paper as we'd hope. So it will continue. Sorry Tom.

on February 28, 2006 10:54 PM
# Wally Punsapy said:

Here's my take:

It's to appease the shareholders, to disspell any concerns with the direction of company. Press releases are also good for one-ups on the competition -- "We are soooooo better than you."

I worked at a tanking dot-com consultancy during the bust and the bullsh1t spew like senior citizen on laxatives.

In Web 2.0 style, Technorati and Digg are the enablers, the champions of the *insert buzzword* popularity contest.

on February 28, 2006 11:37 PM
# Jeffrey McManus said:

I don't think that press releases need to die. I do think they need to be transformed. I think there need to be more of them, actually, but I think they need to be more concise, more targeted, more personalized, and less sanitized. Sort of like a blog post, but in email.

This plays into the "Tactics are the New Strategy" theme that Chad and I have been talking a bunch about lately.

on March 1, 2006 09:31 AM
# Back to Reality said:

There's somewhat of a convention and a pack instinct to press releases. Shame someone doesn't learn from the Jesus and Mary Chain approach approach to concerts - play for 10 minutes and then walk off.

It would be refreshing to see company dare to do one paragraph press releases. Couldn't some PR company introduce "2.0" PR and make its name by completely revolutionizing press releases.

Perhaps the new rules could be:
- no declaration of "[company], the global leader in ..." or "a leading ... company"
- absolutely no buzzwords
- no warm, fluffy exec quotes
- say exactly what it means
- be concise in the extreme
- if necessary provide a supplementary FAQ for each release
- if you've got nothing to say don't feel the need to fill the silence (mind you if your company hasn't run a release in 3 months it's a clear sign your revenues are going south)

This new generation PR company should promote itself via a press release analyzer - drop your press release into a textbox on a form - the analyzer scores it for buzzwords, meaningless fluff and makes recommendations. A top/bottom 10 list of major Internet companies scores is maintained.

on March 3, 2006 01:45 PM
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