Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Is This About PR's future? - Or Journalism's??

Tom Foremski over at SiliconValleyWatcher has a lot of fun tweaking the PR industry every few weeks. Today he rails, as I have, against the ancient, dowdy, over-stuffed press release. Thankfully, Tom provided a how-to template for the press release he'd like to see, as a journalist.

I sent his post to my staff of 60-odd PR pros with the challenge: "Who has the guts to do this?" It caused a li'l tempest in a teapot, but I think the two posts below best exemplify the tone and reaction.

(Although in a typical e-mail string you'd read from the bottom, up - I took the liberty of reversing the order for you, gentle reader):

From: XYZ
Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 2:50 PM
To: Account Staff
Subject: RE: Who has the guts to do this?

The releases are often given to sales folks and also to channel partners, current customers, posted on the Website etc. Not sure if creating a separate doc for editors is really the issue. The issue, I would see, is the pitch. Shouldn't the pitch that accompanies the press release list out all those resources that are available (and most palatable) to each specific editor? I say it should.

Also - I'm stepping onto my soapbox here - but this spoon-feeding-the-editorial-community technique is not making me particularly optimistic about the future of journalism. Writing a good article, and getting all the info you need should take work, right? Isn't this how the best reporters will rise to the top? If we embrace a technique such as Tom F. suggests, are we creating a world where journalists really are just "edit"ors - take the corporate content, slap an opinion or two on it, and call it a day?

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Response:

Good points. My take: you don't know how certain things work out unless you try them. Let's see what happens if we try things Tom F's way. I believe that for a long time to come we'll have to work with people who want it the "old way" and people (customers and journalists) who want to experiment with a "new way." We need to be flexible enough to serve both.


PR-Guy's take: I hate press releases; I generally agree with Tom on this one. But I also agree with my staff (and with the folks at bitemarks) that Tom lives on the bleeding edge of PR 2.0. My guess (as noted by our staffer above) is that we will evolve to a hybrid approach in which the "Press Release" becomes "sales collateral" and the press outreach takes a form closer to what Tom is suggesting.

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