Are Press Releases Still Relevant For Music Marketing?

Newspaper-kc-toh-flickrThe press release has lost value in recent years as the web has opened up a wide range of communication channels that bypass traditional gatekeepers. Yet, despite the reduced role of press releases, they remain in use on a daily basis and are the source for music industry coverage from small blogs to high budget news operatons. Press releases represent both an official statement and freely usable content. For those musicians and music marketers regularly dealing with the press, they remain a useful vehicle for newsworthy announcements and a supplement to more compelling content.

The press release has been declared dead many times due to the effects of the web on marketing and communication. I've been hearing it since around 2006 but most of the people saying that either stopped, for the most part, or don't seem very visible anymore.

I get press releases every day and while I find the canned quotes particularly sanitized and annoying, they are an official statement from representatives of a specific business that can then be held accountable for those words.

For a writer they're also really great to quote, paraphrase or just reproduce and front like you wrote it. I do the first two. The latter I leave to traditional media organizations and weak web operations.

Note: if you want to quickly identify press releases in my writing, look for the phrase "official announcement." That's what they are and that's how I treat them.

The Value of an Official Announcement

Hypebot editor Bruce Houghton once encouraged companies to speak the truth in their press releases even if its surrounded by "spin and hype."

I take a rather different stance in that the press release represents an official statement. Therefore, if it's inaccurate, it exposes either the lies or the incompetence of those involved.

I'd say lie all you want because we will expose you but having just witnessed Jimmy Iovine sucessfully hoodwinking the media over and over again with direct quotes that were clearly inaccurate, I think you can get away with quite a bit of lying these days.

People don't really seem to care about truth, per se, and, sadly, that lack of caring often seems to extend to the press.

Make It Interesting and Readily Available

Generally speaking, part of a press release's value is its mobility. Media entities are traditionally free to do anything they want with them including pass them off as their own work. Many are syndicated widely.

So if you want to take best advantage of a press release's mobility, think about what message you want to spread and then make it as readily available as possible.

When you send it out, post it on your band or company's blog or news section as well. Some of us like to link to the actual press release so that readers can verify it for themselves. As an official announcement it should probably be up on your website first because you should be the authority on your own act.

But Do Consider The Issue of Being Newsworthy

In a post on alternatives to press releases, Maggie Patterson suggests that the:

"Next time talk of a press release starts within your organization, carefully consider the audience and goals for sharing this particular story. Decide if your story is newsworthy and a press release is truly the right way to present this information."

But keep in mind that newsworthiness is in the eye of the beholder. That's why you have to know who you're pitching when you send a press release directly to them.

On a related note, some bloggers are particularly adamant that they don't want to see press releases. If they state that or never quote from press releases, you should know that.

And if you do research members of the media and know what they prefer, you'll be ahead of most publicists at all levels of the game. Based on what I get from publicists on first contact, most of them have no idea what I do beyond having covered something at least vaguely related to what they want me to cover.

Is The SEO Value of Press Releases Gone?

As Lisa Buyer notes:

"Google has been slowly squeezing the SEO life out of press releases for a while now."

Not only are they making the original press release harder to find, for example running obvious reproductions of press releases with the same headlines from numerous media outlets higher in news results than the original if the original is even listed.

We used to be able to get SEO benefit out of press releases so that they were valuable to websites even if no one wrote about them. Most services are widely syndicated so a press release with links used to really help with search engine positioning.

But Google's most recent stance, that you should probably "no follow" all links on your press releases so that Google doesn't spider them or else be penalized, is a real problem. It speaks to Google's attempts to shape the web in its desired image. Unfortunately they have the power to do that now.

I'm waiting to see follow up reports of what people are observing in the field before I decide whether or not all direct SEO value has been drained away. Press releases are of value for SEO if media picks them up and links to you but I'm working on the assumption that the direct value is now gone.

So Why Do A Press Release?

For a lot of music news, press releases are probably not the best option. But if a major newsworthy event is coming up or an official announcement needs to be made, a press release still stands as an official document the media can recognize. If combined with other content, such as videos, it gives media an easy option for quotes and information.

Given media workloads, that's no small thing.

Press releases also offer one method for controlling a message inasmuch as that is possible. I would like to say that people will see through your canned quotes and hype but, honestly, most of the media doesn't bother.

So, yes, press releases are still useful for music marketing but their role has been greatly reduced.

[Thumbnail image courtesy KC Toh.]


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. Great article, Clyde. I agree with everything you are saying. Twitter, in particular, and cable news, have transformed both the delivery and definition of news. I know I get all my music news now from Twitter – for example, Lou Reed’s recent death. Yet, what I wanted was more than just the 140 character news of his death, I wanted a link to read more about his life. For that, I went to the website of a more traditional news outlet, which in turn, relied on the official statement given in a press release. For album releases, I think the press release serves the narrower function that you outlined – it’s a one stop shop for journalists to get all the links they might need to write their story. So it’s a critical component of any musician’s release strategy and marketing, but it doesn’t drive the story. The back story has to be larger than just the music release to be newsworthy these days! If the press release can compellingly describe that back story, it can be very valuable (see Shelby Earl’s video release on Rolling Stone today as a great back story example well-executed).

  2. “it’s a one stop shop for journalists to get all the links they might need to write their story”
    Unfortunately they don’t all do a good job of that.

  3. This is an interesting topic. Thanks for your post, Clyde! And thanks for the comment Solveig!
    I’ve worked as a journalist and am currently studying for a Master’s degree in PR. In my experience, if there’s a story there, press release is a great possibility for spelling it out for the journalist to notice/take into account. While the story is absolutely vital, you have to make sure the messages come across, too.
    And even if you had a great video telling a compelling story, it generally needs to come with a text pitching why it should be viewed/covered. Whatever that text is called, it should be interesting to the recipient and include the message you want to convey (and tell how to contact you for more!).
    As a journalist I had to write about some TV programs for which I only had some videos to create the story from. Even though they were interesting, chances are I didn’t have the time to weigh all options for the story – just went with my gut. Had they had press releases (or some written text!) to go with it, they could’ve influenced my angles for their benefit or at least the other possibilities could’ve been heard and weighed.

  4. Great article!
    I think press releases still have their place – they’re good from a journalist’s point of view for getting quick snippets to quote (although a lot do just copy & paste the whole release!)
    Yes, Twitter and social media have changed the way that news is delivered, but nothing (in my opinion) will replace full articles, and press releases are a good way of ensuring that the points the artist (or the PR company) want to get across are included in some shape or form.

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