The Web has changed the rules for press releases. The thing is, most old-line PR professionals just don't know it yet.

Because the rules for relating with the public have changed so slowly over the past 10 years (since the Web has allowed people to read press releases directly), practitioners who learned based on the old rules have been equally slow to change. In fact, most old-school experts have refused to change altogether.

It is time to step it up and consider the promise that Web 2.0 public relations holds. But be prepared to alter the way you think about press releases.

The Old Days

In the old days, a press release was—shockingly—actually a release to the press. Before the Web, the only reason you issued a press release was to get the media to write about you. Here were "Ye Olde Press Release Rules":

  • Nobody saw the actual press release except a handful of reporters and editors.

  • You had to have significant news before you were allowed to write a press release.

  • A release had to include quotes from third parties, such as customers, analysts and experts.

  • The only way your buyers would learn about the press release's content was if the media wrote a story about it.

  • The only way to measure the effectiveness of press releases was through "clip books," which collected articles every time the media deigned to pick up your release.

Well, no more. The Web has transformed the rules, and you must transform your releases to make the most of the Web-enabled marketplace of ideas.

Why You Need to Learn the New Rules

Today, savvy marketing professionals use press releases to reach buyers directly. Many marketing and PR people understand that press releases sent over the wires appear in near real time on services like Google News. But very few understand the implication that they must dramatically alter their press-release strategy if they are to maximize the effectiveness of the press release as a channel for directly communicating with consumers.

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image of David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and partner in the sonic branding studio Signature Tones. He is the author of 10 books, including The New Rules of Marketing and PR, now in its 6th edition, with 350,000+ copies sold in English and available in 29 languages.

Twitter: @dmscott

LinkedIn: David Meerman Scott