Press release v.s the online media

Ragan Communications and Pollstream conducted a study and recently published a report about the importance of press releases. Ragan quote Vanessa Horwell, chief visibility officer for ThinkInk saying that between 55 percent to 97 percent of press releases sent to media outlets are never acted upon. Horwell observes that “we need to create interest first, but people keep pushing out press releases because companies think that the more they’re sending out, something’s going to stick”. The observation about creating interest is what is truly interesting in the context of the hype around social networking.

The press is undoubtedly a very important player in the formation of public opinion about anything! But, can it be argued that the demand for a particular news is now also affected by what bloggers and Facebookers are pushing? A Consumer Intelligence report published by market research organisation MRI shows that 16.1% of those aged 25-34 have visited a blog in the last 30 days. This is a very relevant portion, considering that 74.1% of the U.S. population uses the Internet. But blogs and social media generally also have a captive audience with a steady decrease in activity amongst higher age groups. Does the press pay attention to what’s going on in the online channels before deciding what goes to print? Should communications offices be more intelligent in combining press releases with research of what’s being said online and through active blogging?

And a word about how this fits in Gov 2.0!

Governments worldwide are blamed for not interacting enough – communication is seen to be one way (as with a press release!). The European Commission’s webpage about the eParticipation Information Day which took place in July hints that “perhaps voters feel … that their concerns and opinions are not being listened to or acted upon.” In a society where Governments are striving to give voters the right degree of involvement in the policy-shaping process, how should Governments use the press in best combination with the online social media? There is never one magic formula. But what makes a news item interesting is definitely that it is credible, well targeted and articulated in a way that makes its content valuable to its recipient.

The abovementioned Ragan report states that the study also shows that 45 percent of respondents believe that press releases are losing relevance because of the growth of social media. Furthermore, 23 percent blamed the decline on the demand for a more trustworthy and/or engaging information source. Does that mean that if Government communications offices used the social media better, they would recapture a sizeable portion of those who are hooked to newer media? Is social media more engaging? Does its open, interactive nature make it more trustworthy?

The press release is not dead and it won’t die but communication certainly needs to change!

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