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Google has changed the way journalists use press releases

Over the last 10 years the press release has taken a bit of a beating, with numerous outlets and industry evangelists declaring the release “dead” as a form of PR communication. This change in tone has largely been driven by industry misuse – with many PROs still using the press release as a way to spam journalists with irrelevant content. At the same time, changes in Google’s search algorithm have meant that duplicate content is increasingly penalised, resulting in the decline of more traditional distribution methods and PR newswire services.

Given these changes, it’s no wonder that so many media outlets have been quick to declare the press release a thing of the past. But are they at risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? After all, many of today’s biggest brands still rely on press releases to promote their corporate news and seem to get results.

To ascertain the value of press releases, PR agency Wildfire reviewed coverage from over 100 releases across five of its key technology sectors. Coverage was scrutinised for whether it included some of the most important elements from the original press release, including:

  • The company’s key messaging
  • A direct quote from a company spokesperson
  • A link back to the organisation’s website or landing page
  • Whether the press release was used as the basis for original content

After analysing these four factors, it was found that 98% of coverage resulting from press releases included a company’s key messaging, 82% featured a direct quote from a company spokesperson, and 46% provided a link back to the brand’s website.

Most encouragingly, in 61% of cases journalists had used the press release as the basis for a wider article, rather than simply copy and pasting the release itself. As Debby Penton, managing director at Wildfire explains:

“With Google increasingly penalising sites for relying on duplicated content, many people have argued that the press release no longer has a place in modern PR. Our research shows that instead of killing the press release, these changes have simply encouraged journalists to alter the way they use release content. Rather than copying and pasting directly, journalists are now using press releases for their original purpose – to provide a factsheet for a wider story. This is not only great news for brands looking to get their message across, but is also good news for end consumers who want to read unique, interesting and original content.

“Thanks to this change in approach, I believe that the press release still has life in it yet – as long as it’s used correctly. Journalists should not be copying from press releases wholesale, and PROs should not be using press releases as a way to spam publications with irrelevant news. What is needed is a more-targeted, intelligent, PR strategy – of which press releases are just one small part.”

Further information

A film and full results of Wildfire’s study can be found here.

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