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3 Min Read

Do Press/News Releases – Whatever They’re Called – Still Matter?

Way back in 2007 – when Facebook was just gaining traction with young people, Twitter was just being launched and foundation communications seemed so much simpler – I was in a quandary.  As the director of communications for the public engagement organization Public Agenda, I had been sending out press releases using pay-as-you go wire services for many years.  For some time, though I had been skeptical of the wire services’ effectiveness.  Now my doubts were growing stronger.

Back then, I had developed a strong list of media contacts who covered Public Agenda’s issues and email was the best means of reaching them.  I tended to use the wire services when we were moving into a new subject area and I wanted to cover all my bases, provided I had the money in my budget.  But still, I never seemed to get much in the way of added coverage when I sent something on a wire.

A few months later I was talking with a fellow communications director at a major foundation. I wondered aloud what wire services were worth.  We were both using them but we also felt like we were wasting our money.  Because an “n of 2” was barely better than “n of 1”, we agreed that this would be the kind of question better answered by others doing similar work.  Thus was born Public Policy Communicators NYC, a New York-city organization, much like – and which draw many members from the Communications Network – where we routinely meet to talk about how to be more effective communicators and trade queries with each other online and off.

Oddly, while PPC-NYC has been meeting for over two years now and has helped our growing membership answer many questions and explore exciting new territory ranging from how to maximize low-cost multi-media to understanding federal communications policy on net neutrality, my questions about how – or if – other organizations were using wire services, or their over all approach to press releases still remained. It occurred to me that for even better answers to that question I should ask fellow members of the Communications Network, to which I also belong and had been contributing some blog items and web content.

With the Network’s permission, I contacted several people at foundations who I thought might have interesting results to share.  Indeed they did, and the findings of my very unscientific poll is summarized here in “The News about Press Releases: A Few Insights from Communications Network Members about an Essential Media Relations Tool.”

To me, the ability to ask a simple question and get a lot of helpful answers about how foundation colleagues approach media relations overall, and the role news releases play has been valuable both for the information the query generated and the reminder that we’re lucky we have each other to ask questions like these. I heard how some are using press releases to make announcements and to get their news into newsrooms (and onto bloggers’ radar screens). Others shared their steps for building good media lists and talked about how they’re using social media to distribute news.

As the Network members queried for this informal survey make clear in their responses, the shifting media landscape is not an easy one to navigate.

Anyway, I consider my report just a start of what I hope might be a larger conversation.  What are you doing to get the news out about your foundation?  Let us know.



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