It must be March because yet another wave of “the press release is dead” posts are making their way around the blogosphere.  Some are coming out syaing yes, it’s dead.  Others are coming to the defense of the lowly press release.

There’s a bit toward the end of the U2 concert film Rattle & Hum where Bono announces to the crowd that the band is going to be taking a bit of time off to “imagine it up all over again.”  I think that’s what needs to happen regarding the press release as a tool for the public relations industry.  We just need to imagine it up all over again.

The thing is I don’t belive there’s an industry-wide solution to how to most effectively utilize the press release in the new media world.  There need to be discussions about using press releases and in what why to use them that mirror the talks that lead to blogging or podcasting.  How do they fit in with the overall communications package your company is offering?

Press releases have a purpose, but only if they’re well thought out and add something to the conversation, just like blogs.  They might not be the right tool for some corporations just like blogs might not be right.  So here’s my challenge to everyone reading this blog: If your company puts out press releases think about them for a few minutes.  Think back through the last month and identify what messages your company communicated to the press or the public.  Then think about what communications channel you would have used if the press release hadn’t been available to you.  Could you have used a blog?  Could you have used something else like a podcast?

The answer likely won’t be uniform for all the messages you’ve identified as necessary to communication.  For some a release is the perfect tool.  For some a blog post might have sufficed.  Others might fit into some other category.  The key is simply to rethink the process and decide what’s going to work best.  Strip away all your pre-conceived notions and institutional traditions.  In fact it might be useful to bring in one or more people who aren’t part of the normal marketing/PR/comms department to get a fresh perspective.  Avoiding groupthink is important since you are in essence tearing down all existing walls in order to rebuild them in a stronger fashion.