One of the big debates in PR over the last couple of years in has been whether the press release is in the last throes of death, or still healthy and thriving for years to come. Tom Foremski, formerly of the Financial Times and now publisher of SiliconValleyWatcher, has no doubt on the matter, and wants the press release to be terminated with prejudice, writing a blog post titled Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!
However rather than leaving a gaping hole in how organizations communicate to the media, Tom has a specific proposal to succeed the press release. In summary:
Here is my proposal:
Deconstruct the press release into special sections and tag the information so that as a publisher, I can pre-assemble some of the news story and make the information useful.
-Provide a brief description of what the announcement is, but leave the spin to the journalists. The journalists are going to go with their own spin on the story anyway, so why bother? Keep it straightforward rather than spintastic.
-Provide a page of quotes from the CEO or other C-level execs.
-Provide a page of quotes from customers, if applicable.
-Provide a page of quotes from analysts, if applicable.
-Provide financial information in many different formats.
-Provide many links inside the press release copy, and also provide a whole page of relevant links to other news stories or reference sources.
And tag everything so that I can pre-assemble my stories.
This makes eminent sense, and relates to a number of initiatives I’ve written about and worked on over the last years.
I first wrote about NewsML in my book Living Networks. This was first developed by Reuters and is now an industry standard for tagging journalistic content, including breakdowns of all the elements of stories, images, and videos. This enables stories to be easily reformatted or reused for different media, in different languages, or within follow-up stories. More importantly, it changes journalistic workflow, providing a template within which stories are submitted, edited, formatted, distributed, syndicated, and used within and across media and publishing organizations. What Tom is describing is
I also wrote in Living Networks about XBRL, eXtensible Business Reporting Language, which is a standard format for financial reporting. No need to provide financial reports in multiple formats – there is already a standard format which will allow journalists to shape it into any format they choose.
The other initiatives Tom’s proposal remind me of are the standard formats for the flow of financial market research. There have been a number of initiatives on this front, with the dominant standard now RiXML, Research Information Exchange Markup Language, which gives standard tags for how financial analyst reports and their elements are provided to investors by investment banks and research firms. This allows fund managers to take and reuse the content within the financial reports in the way that best suits them.
Another related initiative is that of the so-called Social Media Release – see the History Lesson at the bottom of Brian Solis’ recent post on the future of the press release for some background.
The promise of an environment in which all information released from organizations is tagged is that this information can be used and applied with fantastic efficiency and effectiveness. Relevant information isn’t hidden or require a follow-up call. Those journalists who can use information presented in these formats will write better articles faster. Organizations that present information in useful, tagged formats will get better uptake by journalists, and get their messages out more effectively.
Clearly there is going to be no standard tagging format for press releases developed in the foreseeable future. However it is certainly possible to transcend the press release in its current form to provide information in formats that make the workflow of journalists far, far easier. At some point in the future these formats may integrate into the tagged formats used within media companies, such as NewsML or more granular standards. All of these take away the tedium of journalism (including filtering vast quantities of press releases), and free journalists to create more value.