PRWeb CEO David McInnis says “There is nothing sacred or holy about journalism anymore” (other than news from the Vatican Press Office, of course.) But McInnis might as well have said the same thing about public relations.
As McInnis said later in a comment on MicroPersuasion:
We do not try to mask our users' press releases as news. Our releases are clearly identified as press releases. If it is the kind of press releases you object to then I would have to ask what you consider an appropriate release. All newswires accept and distribute marketing releases. I had been using PR Newswire and BusinessWire for that purpose for years before I launched PRWeb.
I have no problem with McInnis saying what he thinks and doing what he believes – it is his business, after all. Nevertheless, since a “press release” now does not necessarily have inherent news value, the Googling public has a right to know whether what they are reading is actual news.
So with apologies to the MPAA, I propose the following ratings system for today’s modern press releases:
- SE – Searchually Explicit. This type of release has more keywords than a post from an “A-List” blogger. It’s written to make sense to computers first, search marketers second, and humans third.
- DC – Direct Consumer. Still a lot of keywords, but written in a language closer to a known human tongue. Journalists should avoid these releases, however, as they might make them wonder why they went to journalism school instead of taking their mothers’ advice to “get a real job.”
- BS – C’mon, like I have to explain this one. Most releases fall into this category; they are the ubiquitous PG-13 of the PR world. These releases really want to be news when they grow up, but can’t seem to get past the committee of corporate editors or clueless PR people who believe phrases like “paradigm shift” and “maximizing core competencies across the enterprise” belong in a press release, much less the English language.
- IO – Information Only. These releases are harmless – there’s no real news value, but there’s not a lot of BS, either. Some examples are “Company XYZ is now blogging,” or “Simon Cowell is a jerk,” or “Pat Robertson said something stupid today.”
- NW – News Worthy. These are the most rare press releases, as they contain actual news content. Journalists have been known to use these releases to write or broadcast actual news stories that reach actual people. NW releases, however, are growing more and more extinct – as are, not surprisingly, real journalists.
I hope someone institutes a ratings system like this, as it will help the public, PR pros and reporters alike. In the meantime, I guess we'll all just have to fall back on common sense.