Why the Press Release Doesn’t Cut it Anymore


Amanda Haines

When I was in PR school, the most important tool we learned about was the mighty press release. Our instructors drilled into us the importance of the inverted pyramid, the power of a lede, and the many requirements of Canadian Press style (which, admittedly, I use on a daily basis). This was over a decade ago, but as a current instructor of Simon Fraser University’s public relations certificate program, I can confidently say that the press release remains a focus.

But how relevant is the press release in today’s changing media landscape, especially for lifestyle brands? At Reformation, we receive new business inquiries almost weekly from brands that “need a press release.” In managing all of these inquiries, I’ve quickly learned that most of these potential clients often use the terms “media exposure” and “press release” interchangeably, thinking that they are one and the same. The reality is that, while a press release can be a valuable tool to garner media exposure for a brand, it’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crafting an effective media relations strategy.

Amanda Haines Vancouver PR agency Reformation press release media relations

From targeted media pitching to product seeding to hosting a launch event, there’s plenty of work to be done when it comes to successfully placing a story for a lifestyle brand. Here’s why the press release doesn’t cut it anymore.

1. Strategy is king.

Play the long game. Generating lasting, meaningful publicity for a brand is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires serious planning – that’s why we take four weeks to design a solid strategy with every new client at Reformation. It can take up to six months or more to settle into a routine of consistent media exposure for a brand. Being proactive and putting a plan in motion well in advance of that big launch or story, while considering what comes next so you can maintain momentum and maximize your ROI, is key.

2. Most lifestyle media placements don’t come from a press release.

Reporters, producers, and bloggers receive hundreds of emails everyday from brands, publicists, and agencies looking to land coverage. With that kind of volume, the majority of media don’t read most of the press releases they receive (let alone open them), especially if they aren’t breaking news. Even if they do open the email, they typically will read the subject, the headline, and maybe the first line of the release to determine if they’re interested in the story (hence why the lede of a press release is so important).

Amanda Haines Vancouver PR agency Reformation press release digital3. Stories aren’t one size fits all.

The majority of the media placements we secure at Reformation come from a refined and well-researched pitching strategy. We spend a significant amount of time staying current with our media contacts, building relationships with them, and knowing what interests them (and more importantly, what doesn’t interest them) so that we can tailor specific stories to individual contacts. Following up on a press release with this approach generates the best results, and also creates a solid sense of goodwill between us and our media friends. They know we won’t waste their time pitching an inappropriate story, and because of that trust, they read our emails and take our calls more often than not.

4. The proof is in the product.

Most media, bloggers, and influencers won’t cover a product or experience unless they have tried it themselves. A big part of our job involves sending samples, invitations, and seeding brands as much as their budgets will possibly allow. Beware, however: editorial isn’t advertising! Product and experience seeding invites all kinds of feedback, good and bad, so never activate a media relations strategy unless you are 100% confident in your brand.

5. A press release isn’t always the best option.

You’ve got a story. But is a press release the best way to get it out there? It all goes back to strategy. The best public relations agencies take an integrated approach, and avoid putting all their eggs in the press release basket. From targeted media pitches and product seeding to a well-crafted tweet or Instagram post, there are plenty of ways to get your brand in front of the media. Ask yourself if your story is newsworthy enough to appeal to a wide range of media; if the answer is no, then you probably don’t need a release.

Today’s most successful PR agencies aren’t one-trick ponies. At Reformation, we integrate traditional media relations with digital tactics to get the best possible result for our clients – including tens of millions of dollars in editorial coverage for our clients every year. Get in touch to learn how we can help design a dialled public relations strategy that delivers.

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