News Releases: Poorly Written Blog Posts?

Image: I'm Blogging ThisI just happened upon a post written by Richard MacManus on ReadWriteWeb, a very popular technology blog, about the inclusion of online news release distributer BusinessWire on the Techmeme “leader board“.  The leader board lists the top sources posted to Techmeme.  MacManus was discussing how Business Wire‘s news releases were competing successfully with bloggers for attention.  Note that PR Newswire, another online press release newswire, is also included rather high on the Techmeme list.

What struck me about this post is a comment from Techmeme’s founder, Gabe Rivera:

I asked Techmeme founder Gabe Rivera what he thought of Business Wire ranking #32 on the Techmeme Leaderboard. Gabe replied that this in itself “isn’t a problem.” He told me that “press releases are kind of like poorly-written company blog posts, which also have a place on Techmeme. That said, I wish Techmeme at times did a better job at elevating good blog posts above the press releases they discuss.”

I asked Gabe if people actually read press releases from the likes of Business Wire. “Sometimes people want just-the-facts”, said Gabe, “Some PR Newswire releases are in fact remarkable reads”. He pointed to this recent story about Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo (screenshot below). But, Gabe noted, “many others are less so, and better retold by blogs like RWW.”

Is Rivera actually saying blog writing is somehow superior to news release writing?  That’s like saying songwriting is better than textbook writing.  That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the point I’m trying to make is that blog writing and news release writing are two different styles.  Good news releases aren’t written in blog post style.  While I’m an advocate of using less print-style writing (I’m not much for true AP Style, even when I’m writing news releases), I actually suggest writers use more of a broadcast television style.  It’s something of a happy medium between … say … The Wall Street Journal and Gizmodo.  And, just because news releases aren’t written exactly the way Mr. Rivera would write them, doesn’t mean they’re written poorly.

Back to the point of the ReadWriteWeb post: News releases DO have a place in online discussion, as Mr. MacManus concluded.  As public relation professionals use the web to target their information at the actual public, rather than using the media as an intermediary, their releases will be quoted more as sources by non-traditional media.  It’s a natural progression.  Well written (and even some of the poorly written) news releases can be a fabulous source for blogs and other social media outlets.

Plug alert: Check out the latest EndGame PR news releases!


Comments for this post

  1. Brad says:

    As a junior practitioner, in my last year of study, I have seen great emphasis in both traditional and modern means of communication. Social media is definitely an important and constantly evolving outlet but the news release is STILL viewed as a cornerstone of the public relations arsenal.

    We’ve always been trained to pay special attention to the quality of our writing no matter what the medium, so to hear the news release reduced to ‘poorly-written company blog posts’ jarred me slightly. At least he validated our poorly-written blog posts by saying we still have a place at Techmeme.

    Your post did, however, raise an interesting question for me. I had wondered if it is appropriate to write in the style where blogs are posted (i.e. AP/CP Style etc.). To the best of my knowledge there are no real ‘rules’ surrounding blog style, assuming proper grammar and spelling. Is it fair to say that the conversational style of blogging allows for greater flexibility with writing style? This might account for how some news releases, written with particular grammatical ‘style’ could be viewed as ‘poorly-written’ considering blog writing is a little more universal.

    I’m not an expert by any means but I’ve always been curious of the culture surrounding social media. Just a thought.

  2. Steve Mullen says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Brad. I was similarly shocked. To be honest, I don’t fully understand the comment. I read a healthy number of blogs, and the writing I generally see (even on the larger more professional ones) isn’t in any way superior to a well-written news release. It’s just different.

    Even if you take into account the difference in style between releases and blog posts, I don’t see how blog posts come out on top in terms of quality. I’ve seen more poorly-written blog posts in my day than I have poorly written news releases, unless the releases we’re talking about come from a free online release distribution site. I was just reviewing one such site while doing some research, and many (probably the majority) of the releases there are just painful to read.

    To address your question — I really don’t think the issue has to do with greater flexibility in blog writing. The only explanation that jumps out is that Mr. Rivera is a blogger and thinks his medium is superior, which is pure foolishness.

  3. Press Release Point says:

    I don’t understand why you think press releases as poorly written blog posts. It is still important to follow the AP style for consumption by traditional media.

  4. Steve Mullen says:

    Press Release Point (if that is indeed your real name):

    I don’t. I’m guessing perhaps you didn’t bother to read the blog post.

  5. Press Release Point says:

    Ok, sorry. I am referring to TechMeme founder Gabe Rivera’s comments.

  6. Press Release Point says:

    Ok. It is not my name. My name is Kamalnath. But I am employed by PressReleasePoint and I write blog posts and participate in other PR blogs for PressReleasePoint. Yes, publicity is one of the reason / motive for my participation but that is not the only reason. Fair enough?

  7. Steve Mullen says:

    Hi Kamalnath,

    I know exactly what you were doing. You’ve probably been instructed (or decided on your own) to post on blogs about PR and news releases as a way to spread the word about your company. I have no problem with that if you’re actually adding something to the conversation. In this case, however, you didn’t even bother to read the blog post. That doesn’t make your company look terribly good.

  8. Press Release Point says:

    This is what I posted “I don’t understand why you think press release as poorly written blog post” How could I write this comment if I know nothing about this blog post. I too don’t want to comment if it doesn’t add little value to conversation. I agree I referred to you by mistake instead of TechMeme founder. But the message is conveyed somehow.

    I am disappointed to hear some one say that press release is inferior to blog posts. As a person from a press release distribution service, I have some rights to express this. I kind of second your thought. Most of us are here to promote something. Perhaps one of the objectives of your blog is to promote your service. What is wrong with that.

  9. Steve Mullen says:

    This isn’t going to turn into an argument. I’ll start deleting posts and banning IPs before it gets there. My point was, you didn’t read the post. The information you posted could have been gleaned simply from reading the headline. Additionally, you can’t compare me launching and populating a blog for my business to you coming on to my blog and commenting. It’s like comparing apples and Chevrolets.

    This is a good lesson for everyone on blogger relations campaigns for businesses. When you’re commenting on blogs to promote your business, make sure you read the blog post to which your commenting, and don’t get into arguments with the owner of the blog. It won’t do you or your company any good.

  10. tinagleisner says:

    Fascinating discussion. I’m just getting involved with press releases and my instinct says they’re still mostly written to garner attention from the media. The fact that these releases now get picked up and written about by bloggers is one way in which the Internet is changing our communication … and maybe over time, releases will be written differently to talk to multiple audiences.

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