Writing. The great comeback story.

It’s been my fairly consistent experience over the years that about half of the companies which issue press releases in the industrial and scientific sectors use PR consultancies, and the other half do the job in-house. Disappointingly, fewer companies than ever seem to be using PR consultancies’ full expertise in press or public relations; more and more are simply using them as subcontract writing and distribution services. Maybe that just reflects the changing media.

It’s easier than ever to guarantee publication now, with web sites that publish everything they receive, and so many magazines where you can buy inclusion. It’s hardly unexpected then that the number of press conferences is way down, and what we might call “hospitality events” for Editors are a real rarity. However, what is surprising is that the number of press releases being issued appears to be falling, according to my anecdotal evidence.

We all know that increasingly, companies are going “straight to market” and publishing their news for customers and prospects on their own websites, bypassing the media. But if you’re writing an announcement for your own website, surely it’s not that much extra effort to distribute it to the media? My feeling is that more and more company news is not being written up at all. And that really is shocking.

In the past, with such great competition to get into the trade media, you could be forgiven for being unmotivated to produce press releases. Now that you’ll always get published, because if nothing else, you’ll put them on your own website, why aren’t you writing more than ever? Surely it wasn’t the challenge which was the incentive to write the things?

I think it’s the whole publicity writing chain which has contracted. The resources allocated to it have simply ebbed away. If your company spends more time or money on promotional writing today than it did ten years ago, I’d be interested to hear your story.

However, I also detect a major change. Every time we get involved in rebuilding websites for companies, it’s quickly become clear that the next job will be to re-crank up the writing machine. A successful website is a voracious devourer of content. Nowadays, if a small company approaches us and says they’ve budgeted £10,000 this year to rebuild their website, I warn them in advance that they should put half of that aside to get additional content written.

I certainly have no intention of this consultancy getting into the press and public relations market. But we’re now being asked by many companies to produce great technical content for their website and beyond, and we can offer a good service there. I have access to some of the best freelance technical writers in the engineering, laboratory and electronics sectors, and I’ve been known to write the odd article myself over the years. If you have a 20-page website trying (and failing) to cover 200 products, or if you want a blog section produced each week without getting your own hands dirty, just ask.

Discussion

  1. martin southam

    We do much more than 10 years ago and use Technical Publicity. My experience is that if you try to do it all in house then unfortunately it is one of those activities that can drop off the end each month. So commit a budget and find a good proactive agency that seek out material for articles.

    BTW – we have an all new SEO friendly website going live next month – many of your Insider tips have been invaluable!

  2. John Weet

    I want to pick up on your comment about companies that go “straight to the market” and that it would be little effort for them to send it to the media as well. The problem here is that the quality of the material they write for the website would often not be good enough for a press release. It’s sometimes difficult to understand what message they are trying to get across and it is not part of a consistent and coordinated plan. I have also read recently of several editors complaining about being inundated with poor quality releases that are irrelevant to them and their readers. By suggesting that non “PR” folk should distribute web news items as press releases could exacerbate this problem. Many companies don’t know it (or fail to accept it), but there is still a place for skilled PR practitioners in helping them develope and promote their brand.

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