Published: 18 Aug 2014

Why the press release continues to stand the test of time

With all the technology we have at our disposal, what place does the humble, traditional press release have in the modern world?

Well, according to journalists, a pretty fundamental one. This may seem surprising, particularly given the movement of media content to online platforms, but of the 163 journalists who took part in market research firm nfpSynergy’s journalist’s survey in April, 59% said they preferred the traditional press release.

Just over a fifth (22%) of the journalists, who have all covered charity stories in the last six months, said they preferred to receive rich media press releases and 9% said they were happy with both.

Why do journalists continue to prefer their beloved traditional press release and what has prompted some to switch their preference to rich media? What’s the best way to get journalists to cover your content?

Why would you not want rich media?

Time, or the lack of it, is the main reason journalists prefer press releases. As one BBC journalist commented in the survey: “Haven't got time to watch videos. A waste of effort as 9/10 press releases don't get read beyond the first line.” Another journalist wrote “I just need basic information to pitch to the news desk.” Journalists are open to rich media, but are happy to know it’s there if needed:

Don't have time to listen to lots of video/audio press releases and more likely to ignore – traditional press release can be scanned quickly and if interested will request more information and interviews. Scottish Sunday newspaper

Journalists use their time as efficiently as possible, and rich media is a time-thief. As one freelancer said: “I like reading fast. Watching videos takes longer.”

Press releases are also more practical when you’re on the move: “Easy to read on mobile and underground when out and about. Easy to find contact details and see key points without having to watch a whole clip.”

The third main reason journalists gave is their frustration at anything that clogs inboxes. With some journalists citing inboxes with over 8,000 unread emails (does that feel familiar?), you can understand this plea from a regional journalist: “Don't ever send an email bigger than 5MB! Better to send a basic press release but make it clear pictures and video are available.”

What about the rich media converts?

Producing engaging content that’s appealing to different audiences and online-ready is at the heart of why 22% of journalists prefer rich media. As one freelancer summarised: “Easier to understand and to package into powerful stories”.

A journalist from a daily national newspaper recognises the convenience of rich media to their online work, stating it “helps me put together a package for the website which I now have to provide material for as well as the paper”.

For some, even though they prefer rich media, they are wary of the consequences:

I'm increasingly trying to make news stories look as visually interesting as possible, with info graphics and a range of relevant images.  We are also experimenting with video. So, yes, where relevant would be interested in audio/video snippets to add to stories.  However, they take time to sort out, so I wouldn't want to be deluged – targeted and relevant would be great, though. Journalist from a health magazine

Give your story the best chance

Journalists are time-poor. They have inboxes that are hitting their limits. The following steps should give you the best chance of achieving coverage, either with or without rich media.

1. Be concise and target the right journalists. Produce short, snappy press releases with informative titles, which are relevant to them and their employers.

2. Make journalists aware you have rich media content, which is available upon request. Although it feels counter-intuitive to invest resources in content you then only allude to, if your press release is of interest to a journalist, they will contact you.

3. Be ready to react. Journalists become very frustrated with unresponsive charity media teams. Journalists will call you if they are interested in your story and want your rich media content, so be ready when they do.

For more information on nfpSynergy’s research with journalists, please get in touch with Tim  Harrison on timothy.harrison@nfpsynergy.net.


Tim Harrison, head of professional audiences, nfpSynergy

Tim heads up nfpSynergy's tracking research with professional audiences. These include MPs, Peers, journalists, healthcare professionals and grant makers. His recent reports have covered topics such as nine tactics for charities to consider ahead of the next election, how charity lobbying compares with corporate lobbying and how charities should engage with the Scottish independence debate. Before joining nfpSynergy, Tim worked for three years at an international market research firm that specialised in applying research methods from political campaigns to the corporate sector.