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.


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.

Who won the Sark Sheep Race?

Every Friday afternoon for the last 6 years, the Isle of Sark email newsletter (*) has dropped into my in-box.

It occurred to me that this perhaps little known publication is worthy of more attention, especially as it has quietly pioneered good email design and podcasting for probably longer than many much larger operations and undoubtedly operates with far fewer resources.

So what’s good about it? For a start, it has never missed a Friday in 6 years, as far as I can tell. That takes some stamina.  Not only generating the copy, but the MP3 version has to be recorded too. As a means of serving the information needs of a small community (both the 600 indigenous population and those, like me, who have an interest in the place), then you can’t really fault it. Even more remarkable when you realise that the whole thing is produced by one person – namely resident Sark
journalist, Jennifer Cochrane. She also finds time to edit Sark’s only newspaper, ‘La Vouair
de Sercq’.

Perhaps some lessons could be learned by more established publishers and marketers.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, Captain Teers’ Skull and Crossbones 
Challenge – or the 1.10 pm race – was won by No. 5, Oak Frame, out 
of West Wind by Rupert, owned by the Sark Building Company. 

(*) My interest in Sark stems from the fact that my wife grew up there – my mother-in-law has been resident for over 40 years – and we try and get over there at least once a year.


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