Further evidence (if it were needed) that most PR professionals are still putting the old wine of traditional press relations in the new bottle of online PR.
A new survey from the Society for New Communications Research into the ROI of Online Press Releases has identified that: “traditional patterns of press release usage might keep public relations practitioners
from adapting press releases to online contexts and new audiences.”
According to the SNCR: “PR professionals were consistently more interested than marketing professionals in reaching traditional media. Marketing professionals were consistently more interested than PR
practitioners in reaching new media or consumers directly.”
In other words, PR people still see online news releases first and foremost as a media relations tool.
The report also highlighted that there was a distinct “lack of knowledge about SEO on the part of most PR
professionals.” Very few respondents indicated using social media release formats (26.3 percent) and even fewer reported adding video (12.8 percent) or audio (9 percent) enhancements. Of all multimedia elements, photos were the most popular, used in online press releases by 49.5 percent of respondents. “Even more puzzling is that less than half of respondents (48.8 percent) link to their own press releases after they have been posted online.”
On the measurement side, SNCR said that “the criteria used to evaluate the success of press releases….are the electronic equivalent of press clippings. However, these metrics provide no information about higher-level success indicators such as audience receipt; message comprehension, recall, and acceptance; and behavior change. Simply put, the fact that a press release has been republished on a website offers no certain evidence that the target audience actually read it, understood it, agreed with it and, if applicable, engaged in a different behavior (i.e. product purchase) as a result.”
As Metrica point out in their critique of this research: “we need to move to more robust models of capturing larger indicators of success, such as product sales from online articles and related behavioural shifts that result from online and offline PR.”
To adapt a line from Antony Mayfield, we may think we have developed a new discipline with online PR, but in many ways we have simply taken traditional models and simply transplanted them to the web. We have only progressed a small distance in terms of understanding the way the web works.
Investing effort in an outcome based approach to online PR will surely reap rewards.