Some people say that because press releases today are visible and read by end users, that they should speak directly to the audience. That they should use words like “we” or “you” to address the reader rather than being written in 3rd person.
We do agree that press releases have changed dramatically since the “old days.” Press releases used to be docs that went to the media (the gatekeeper) and then it was up to the media to decide whether or not it was “important” enough to be published in their forum. Today however, the internet is the forum and people can publish directly to it. People then decide what they want to see by typing search terms into search engines. For example, a newspaper may not think that a company announcing a new model train engine was “worthy” enough for press, but a model train enthusiast probably would — and now they can find that news themselves by searching the internet.
However, in the past, editors would often publish the releases in full or in part as they were issued by the company — meaning that the manner of writing was often the same once that press release became a public facing piece of content. The “end published result” of a press release — whether it’s published in full or editorialized by a journalist, has always been more journalistic than a typical “we” promotional piece from the company.
As a press release publisher, we’ve talked a lot about the voice and purpose of a press release — and we remain grounded on two main editorial factors that must be present in the press releases that we publish:
1. The release must announce something “new” or make a statement about something current — vs. something the company always does.
2. The content must be written in a somewhat objective 3rd person manner — except for in quotes.
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We’ve found that without these two guidelines in place, the content can really begin blurring between “press release” and “advertisement.” It’s very important to maintain integrity as a website where people can find news announcements vs. ads.
And it’s for your benefit as well…
Readers are very wary of hype on the web today. Most people realize that anyone can publish anything to the web with the push of a button. Writing a press release in objective language almost forces you to provide proof vs. opinions — to validate the claims that you make rather than just stating opinions. Saying “you’re going to love the new hamburger we’ve just introduced” is an opinion. Saying “9 out of 10 people who tried the new burger and completed a survey said it was the best burger they’ve had in the last year,” is backed by some proof. By writing in a more objective tone, you’re sending a stronger, more persuasive message.
What Say You?
What are your opinions on whether or not a press release should address readers in the first person?