As an engineering trade press editor throughout the 1990s, I would receive a large sack of press releases every week. Sometimes two of them. Almost every one of the 100-200 envelopes inside each sack would contain a one- or two-page announcement, with a nice 7×5-inch colour photo attached. Between 1995 and 2005, almost every company started to publish its press releases in emailed form, with an electronic image. Sometimes this was in addition to the paper one, but increasingly it became a replacement.
And for most companies, that’s been the only change in press releases over the past 20 years, according to my friends in magazine publishing.
It does seem a wasted opportunity.
Press releases aren’t just for editors any more; we all know that. Websites all round the world publish them (often exactly as received), and it’s quite likely that your customers will have read your press release before you get around to telling them your news directly, and before any of the magazines they’ve traditionally been aimed at get their next issue out. A press release is also a massive opportunity to “plant” pages around the web in your own format and words. It’s as much a sales document as it is anything else. So why issue yours looking like an online version of the paper one you’d have sent out in 1995?
There are two ways that you can – indeed, must – enhance your press releases to take advantage of online distribution. I’m going to discuss them tomorrow.