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Guest editorial

Why the news release is alive and well

by Deborah Weinstein

The use and value of the news release has been much maligned in recent times. Pundits and marketing professionals, digerati and WOMA gurus have been quick to declare the demise of the news release. Content marketing is the hot new kid on the block, touted as the latest dragon slayer.

Not so, says our Canadian public relations team at Strategic Objectives where the news release is alive and well and thriving - and where it's more important now than ever before.

A former journalist and strong advocate of a well-worded, journalistically-styled news release, I explain why in this video [above] from the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms.

This video clearly explains Strategic Objectives' longstanding use of the news release and how, before the days of the Internet, we mailed our kits out to journalists, only to have them arrive a week later. The Internet changed all that, but we believe the news release is as relevant and necessary now, as it ever has been - and the perfect vehicle for PR agencies to disseminate client news and information to journalists, bloggers, stakeholders and employees in a succinct and helpful way. That said, the news release has evolved.

Today's news release has changed dramatically to get ahead of instant news that now breaks at the speed of a Tweet. It's become the PR practitioner's enduring, but not-so-new-tool, to make our clients' stories compelling, shareable and spreadable.

Today's news release features valuable, reusable content and rich media: images, infographics, videos, links, and interactive widgets. They're written for search engine optimization and to be picked-up by a plethora of paid, earned, owned and shared distribution services ranging from BusinessWire, CNW and Marketwired; to QMI, AP and Reuters; to the client's digital and social properties, including their website.

The rapid rise and importance of content marketing in the digital era has made it mandatory for news releases to tell the client story in a newsmaking, newsworthy fashion. In fact, we argue that, the news release is a pillar of content marketing

OK, we know that content marketing is a hot buzzword these days, but what does it really mean? The Content Marketing Institute defines it this way: "Content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent."

Sound familiar? That's precisely what a news release does. It's a tool we PR pros use to communicate with mainstream and social media journalists who share their stories, AKA "earned media," with your brand or organization's key audiences - be they consumers, stakeholders, shareholders, regulatory authorities, and/or, all of the above.

The news release is an easy-peasy way to communicate brand information, and deliver the facts journalists need, to write and share meaningful, relevant and credible stories with their audiences.

Content marketing, like social media before it, is now touted as the latest and greatest news release giant killer. The all-knowing “they,” say that marketers and PRs should chuck the news release and hop on board the content marketing train. What these doubters fail to realize, is that it's content marketing itself, that is making the news release stronger and more important than ever. So, to you naysayers and mourners, we stand by our claim and maintain the news release is alive and well and paying its own way

The news release will not meet its demise any time soon. It will, like the practice of our PR profession, continue to morph and evolve, based on need, imagination and innovation. Our agency has witnessed significant change in the way we do things since our founding back in 1983. Our goal, as always, is to get ahead of the curve and to be a trend-spotter and trend-setter. As such, we are fast to jump on hot new communication trends, including social media and content marketing - but the basic raison d'être of the news release remains tried, tested and true.

There are fewer and fewer journalists in the mainstream media with the time, much-less job, to report-on and share our client news; and bloggers and digital publications have even fewer resources at their disposal. This presents a huge opportunity for PR pros to brandish our storytelling skills and take a proactive part in crafting/sharing trustworthy news that can easily be picked up and shared, often verbatim.

The news release has survived and thrived through the rise and proliferation of social media, and the upswing of content marketing, though some have left it for dead. We've said it before and we'll say it again: The news release is alive and well and necessary. Especially in these days of instant news.

Deborah Weinstein is co-founder, partner and president of Strategic Objectives, an international award-winning, full-service public relations agency that delivers smart ideas and better solutions to many of Canada and the world's leading brands. Headquartered in Toronto, Strategic Objectives is IABC/Toronto PR Agency of the Year 2012, 2011, and 2009. It employs more than 35 top public relations professionals, in addition to associates across Canada, and PR partners around the world. Deborah is a recipient of the Queen's Diamond and Golden Jubilee Medals for Outstanding Service to Canada and its Communications Industry.

This article originally ran on the Strategic Objectives blog on Feb. 13, 2014.

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