Recycled Friday: Is £2.5 billion really spent on press releases in the UK?


I was inspired by the following comment from @adcontrarian in his latest blog post:

Because I am a lazy bastard and the thought of writing five posts a week is a constant source of terror, I have decided to introduce a new policy around here. From now on, on Fridays,  I’m going to recycle old posts that I like and that are still relevant. Today is our first Recycled Friday.

What a great idea. Having nearly 600 posts over 7 years gives me a good back catalogue to plunder.

Without further ado, here is a post I wrote five years ago – has much changed? You be the judge.

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New survey conducted by Benchmark Research on behalf of Glide Technologies has thrown up some interesting, if not entirely unsurprising, results about the PR industry in the UK today.

The full report is here:

Glide PR survey

However, the one item that caught my eye was the calculation that  £2.5bn is spent on press releases in the UK. This based on the survey finding that 39pc of PR professionals time is spent on creating, distributing, and following up on press releases – and the estimated total size of the UK PR industry at £6.5bn. Couple that with only 32% of releases received by the media being of genuine interest, then I calculate that means £1.7bn is being wasted on irrelevant press releases.

Although I’d take this calculation with a pinch of salt, it would be fair to say that an awful lot of money is still being spent (and wasted) on the humble press release.

The survey also highlighted a clear discrepancy between journalists desire to be contacted by email and PRs who still overwhelmingly use the phone.

I know the reasons for both sides views. Journalists have been jaundiced by too many wasteful phone calls along the lines of “did you get my press release”, or are you attending exhibition X (see Phil Muncaster of IT Week vent his spleen re: the pre-InfoSec deluge of calls asking him whether he was going – Muncaster InfoSec rant )

On the other side, PRs often feel that they will get more “attention” by actually talking to the journalist. Though of course that still means you need a good enough story to give them.

My take on the survey as a whole is that is shows the same old values still apply to PR in terms of media relations – journalists will give the time of day to a trusted source – but even that doesn’t guarantee they will use a story. Perhaps some of that wasted £1.7bn could be spent on training PR professionals to get better at becoming trusted information sources.

Other findings below:

81% of Journalists on a desert island opt for laptop over a phone

Email remains the most popular delivery format for journalists. Fax, post, newswire, PDA and SMS all decline. RSS and IM emerge.

76% of journalists more likely to use press communication with photos etc.

89% of journalists will visit an organisation’s website most of the time when writing about them

Journalist Complaints

Poor use of email (e.g. sending large attachments) accounts for the two greatest online deterrents to journalists

Only 32% of releases received by the media are of genuine interest

73% of journalists think an organisation is ‘not media friendly’ if its online press information is poor. 60% think they’re ‘lazy’, 50% that they’re ‘incompetent’.

Research conducted by Benchmark Research.

What has Google ever done for PR?


The CIPR’s Social Summer season kicks off next Thursday, May 26th, at Russell Square with a session presented by yours truly on the subject of What Has Google Ever Done for PR?

This is an updated reprise of the presentation I gave (twice) last year. The main thrust of my argument remains the same – that the PR sector has a lot to thank Google for, not just in terms of the technology it provides for free, but how we can learn and be inspired by its business approach and culture. I hope you can make it along.

On other matters, one of my recommended books this week is Douglas Hubbard’s Pulse: The New Science of Harnessing Internet Buzz to Track Threats and Opportunities.

I’ve waxed lyrical in the past about Hubbard’s earlier book, How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business. In this latest, he explores the opportunity offered by massive and publically available Internet data sources to help better understand customer sentiment and opinion – or as he calls it, The Pulse.

As Hubbard says: “The Pulse actually is a far faster and cheaper predictor of economic activity and public opinion than traditional methods in many respects and it is also often a better one.”

Given that one of the aims of PR is to shape public opinion, we ought to devote more attention to the biggest and best source of sentiment ever available.

Hubbard also makes the salient point that most of the big Web properties such as Google, eBay and Amazon provide APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow anyone with a modest amount of development skills to access immense amounts of valuable data for free. Why should PR people be interested in this? He cites the example of being able to analyse sales data on Amazon as a predictor of economic trends – it is this kind of data driven approach that PR needs to get its head around.

However, let’s not get too carried away. A more cautionary view is taken by Douglas Rushkoff in his latest book, Program or Be Programmed. He argues that that we are in danger of sleep walking into a world where we are programmed by the technology we use rather than the other way round. He makes a passionate plea that we need to better educate ourselves about how these technologies are really being built or programmed – or else we will be programmed by them.

As he puts it: “We are intimidated by the whole notion of programming, seeing it as a chore for mathematically inclined menials than a language through which we can re-create the world on our own terms. In a digital age, we must learn how to make the software, or risk becoming the software.”
You have been warned.

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