Resurrecting the Press Release?

16 09 2011

3 years ago I proclaimed to a public relations class that the press release could see its virtual end in a few years, thanks to Twitter. My proof? This post from journalist Tom Foremski, and the fact that Twitter accomplishes better what the Press Release is designed to do: Get the news out quickly and concisely. Now, don’t get me wrong, getting your story to the local, regional, national and even global press will never vanish. Press agentry is a live and well. But the press release as we know it? Dead. Dead because journalists need more. Dead because social media users are changing the media game.

And then Google did this:

The tweet linked to a Google press release entitled: “Google Just Got Zagat Rated” (which you can find here). The press release is anything but traditional. Sure, it features the usual wasted-space quotes proclaiming that the company A (Google) is “excited,” “pleased,” or “hopeful” about the merger with company B (Zagat) (you know, the stating-the-obvious quotes that have no news value whatsoever). But there are a few “innovations” to this revived press release:

It Spreads the Voice Around. This press release isn’t only bylined, it’s relevantly bylined. I asked my students in my digital PR and Ad class at the Univ. of Houston last week why the VP of Local, Maps and Location Services bylined this press release. That is, why not one of the dynamic duo (Larry Page or Sergey Brin). The answer I was looking for (and which they caught on to in seconds…my students are brilliant, and yes I’m biased) was: Strategic Relevance. Zagat, the foodie ratings company, matters much more to mapping services than, say, Adsense, Blogger, or Google+. It’s quite simple actually: It makes even more sense NOW to use google maps than any other mapping service because before you get directions, you get help making the decision whether to make the trip in the first place.

The Dynamic Duo “Holy Schmidt Batman, Eric’s Gone!”

It’s written with the Audience in Mind: Foodies. The intro has “Foodie” written all over it. Local-Diamond-in-the-Stripmall-Rough restaurant reference? Check. Food rating? Check. Word-of-Mouth-Credibility? Check. Personal story? Check. Yep, it’s all there…at least in what, for all intents and purposes, would be considered the lead. Mayer even adds her own vote of confidence for the 27 point food rating of the unrelated restaurant mentioned in the lead.

It’s Quirky.  Much has been made about the quirkiness of Social Media. As of yet, no one has actually defined what it means to be quirky, but I would imagine it would include synonyms like ironic, weird bordering on uncomfortable, but funny in a strange, you’ve-got-to-be-there sort of way. By these definitions, this post is quirky because Mayer slobbers all over the press release, gushing about Zagat and the new acquisition in a “should we give you two some time alone” sort of way. It looks like professional writing watered down to be conversational, and for most media outlets (i.e. Wall Street Journal), it probably doesn’t work. Online? Fine by me.

What it doesn’t have is the usual stuffy, high-minded verbiage about company profits, projected revenue, and the other technical mumbo-jumbo that the everyday reader, not to mention the Foodie, would probably gloss over anyway. Unfortunately, that means it’s also a little bland on investor-relevant information and almost devoid of any quotables for a reporter. But then again, a “press release” this isn’t. A “social press release”–Maybe. One friend excitedly sharing news with another–definitely. A press release as we know it? Probably not. And yet, this new incarnation could spark the revival of Press Release Writing.

Editors Note: Probably one of the most odd concoction of searches and websites to put this post together, including: “Holy Batman Phrases” and this site, “Social Media is Quirky,” “Google Head Honchos,” “How to Haiku” (at first glance, I was dubious Mayer’s Tweet was a real haiku…had to be certain), and “Die Press Release Die!”

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