The press releases of 2015 look very different compared with the announcements PR Newswire first distributed in 1954.
Today’s high-octane press releases include digital assets, well-placed links, great headlines and persuasive calls to action. They’re also easy to share on social networks and easy to find through online search.
Yet our editors still see diehard news release practices that are no longer necessary in today’s digital world.
‘For Immediate Release’
Many public relations practitioners were taught to include “For Immediate Release” or “Embargoed until XX:XX” at the top of their press releases to tell journalists when the story could be published.
From a digital point of view, when press releases are distributed via a commercial service, they’re assumed to be for immediate release. That’s why PR Newswire removes that line from every release we process.
When a press release goes live online, it’s ready for immediate use by journalists, influential industry figures and other audiences.
Once a press release lands on an editor’s desk, it’s usually considered fair game to publish. Because of this, embargoing information has its risks.
There will be times when offering an embargoed exclusive to the right media outlet can give your news a boost. However, it should be a true exclusive that you’ve held off on sending to other journalists.
With many news sites competing to break the story first, embargoes are not always honored. TechCrunch publicly stated back in 2008 that it would break all embargoes as a matter of principle.
Therefore we typically advise against sending embargoed news to a wide media audience.
If you are going to pitch an exclusive to a journalist, wait until that specific outlet has published the story to distribute your press release to other media outlets.
Hashtags, pound signs and Jim dashes
A good generational test is to ask someone what the # symbol means.
An intern asked me last week why there were hashtags at the end of a release. Historically, press releases closed with a “###” or “-30-“. For wire systems, these symbols indicated to the newsroom that the text of the release was finished. PR Newswire’s systems were no different; we used to end a transmission with “-0-“.
Most readers today see a press release’s boilerplate and understand they’ve come to the end. Save the pound sign for your tweets; instead, use a compelling closing paragraph to conclude your message.
Press releases used to be filed away in newsrooms or disappear off of websites after a few weeks. Because of this, it was not customary to include the year in the dateline. If you find a press release online that doesn’t have a year on it, it was probably distributed before it became standard practice to include the year in the dateline.
However, thanks to website archives and search engines, press releases are now discoverable indefinitely.
Just last month, we were asked to track down the age of a news release found online. We discovered the release was issued in 1998. That was 18 years ago; talk about reach.
Today’s press releases have immense staying power. Including the year in your dateline helps readers determine how old the information might be, no matter when they might find it.
As journalists and other audiences demand change, press release practices will continue to evolve. Give some thought to your next announcement: Will PR Newswire get a question about it 18 years from now?
From time to time we ought to reevaluate what we’re including in our content. Doing so will ensure that we’re providing our audiences with relevant and useful information.
As a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire, author Catherine Spicer has more than 20 years’ experience counseling brands on content quality. She is also Beyond PR’s resident Grammar Hammer. A version of this article originally appeared on Beyond PR.