Is this really the press release of the future?

01 May 2008

Harvard Business Online’s Scott Berinato reckons he’s found the press release of the future, in the form of the website announcing the proposed merger between Delta and Northwest Airlines.

I think I get his point, but for those of us interested in finding new ways to carve up news into manageable, meaningful chunks, I’d have to disagree with his conclusion. What he has actually identified is that companies have to find new ways of communicating their ambitions, opinions and positions in a complex media landscape. The one-dimensional press release just doesn’t have a place in the current attention flow.

What Delta/Northwest have done is simply the kind of smart thinking that is required of any organisation that needs to communicate quickly with a wide range of people. The future of the press release it is not.

Take a look at the site and let me know if you agree.

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7 Responses to “Is this really the press release of the future?”

  1. Die zeitgem????e Pressemitteilung « c/o operative

    PingBack from http://cooperative.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/die-zeitgemaesse-pressemitteilung/

  2. JKash

    I read the same thing the other day (HBP Email alerts, FTW) and agree with your assessment.

    I think the rapid-deployment microsite approach holds water, as the depth of information and audience-specific format beats a press release any day.

    It would be interested to see what would happen if this approach (a CMS-based site) were to include blog posts or other social elements. Publishing easily digestible information is the first step; having the audience accept it is quite another.

  3. JKash

    Hey Niall, good catch… And while I would agree that the approach taken by Delta/Northwest is becoming an increasing necessity in today’s complex media environment, the "deal" micro-site is not totally new, and has been around for quite a while (some better than others). For example, I’ve written about them both here: http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/blogs/brendanhodgson/archive/2006/06/08/3459.aspx and here: http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/blogs/brendanhodgson/archive/2007/01/19/6921.aspx

    The key value proposition for such sites, in my view (and as both you and JKash have also inferred), is the ability for organizations to more effectively exploit the web to channel specific content and messaging to specific audiences unhindered by traditional media filters (while, at the same time, ensuring that content is packaged appropriately for the mainstream media),  articulate complex issues in formats that are significantly easier to understand – be it through the use of flash, architecture, or links to supporting 3rd party resources, and be able to rapidly launch and update the site as issues emerge or change.

    Likewise, our experience with dark sites and issues microsites has only reinforced the importance of including a social media overlay in terms of how the site content is managed (through a blog-based CMS, for example, how people access and receive the content (RSS, emial et al), and the importance of video and photo tools (Youtube, Flickr etc.) to amplify your message, but also to present beyond the traditional text-based confines.

    This is an idea who’s time has definitely come.

  4. JKash

    To add to my first comment, the use of the deal site by Delta/Northwest to actually engage audiences to show their support highlights the potential of the web to not only inform and educate but also to drive action/reaction.

    That said, I think more could be done by Delta/Northwest to use the site as a "living" vehicle to address misinformation and speculation versus simply adding links to news stories and press releases. Adding a Q&A or Issue Response feature (easily maintained like a blog) that would be constantly updated to address emerging would, in my view, be a useful addition.

  5. Leo Bottary

    Dr. Francis X. Frei wrote an article in the April 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review titled: Four Things A Service Business Must Get Right.  In it he asks the question: Are you tryng to be all things to all people or specific things to specific people?  I’m not sure this is the press release of the future, but I really like how it offers specific information to specific people who have very specific information needs.

  6. David H. Deans

    Agreed, microsites are an excellent publishing tool for ongoing communication to an engaged "community of interest" that’s drawn to a common cause.

    That said, the combination of Delta and Northwest is not a storyline that can be enhanced by clever publicity tactics.

    When two of the "weakest links" of the U.S. airline industry come together to form one collective (and slowly integrated) weak link, then this fact can’t be glossed over by posting glowing testimonials from those people with vested interests in keeping this industry laggard afloat — at any cost to the public.

    My point: the content on the microsite is a thinly veiled attempt to make these under-performing airlines appear like they are something that they are clearly not — when viewed through the eyes of a consumer customer.

    IMHO, all the legacy PR professionals that still believe that their role is to put a positive spin on any scenario — including a long track record of poor customer service — are only fooling themselves and their naive customers into believing that intelligent consumers will be influenced by deception.

  7. radio publicist

    See the latest Land Rover vehicles on Yahoo! Autos.

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