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Is the age of the press release over?


The humble press release - once a staple of PR work - is no longer worthwhile in the high-tech world of social media and infographics, according to a statement from government communications chief Alex Aiken.

Mr Aiken was director of communications and strategy for Westminster City Council between 2000 and 2012, after holding several posts at Conservative Central Office.

Speaking to PR Week, the industry expert expressed the feeling that people working in the sector now need to take on the mantle of content production themselves rather than pushing it on to journalists or other writers.

"You should not start with three pages of A4, but a tweet, an infographic or a video. If you are writing more than 200 words on any subject, you’re probably in the wrong place," he added.

As an example, he pointed out that Defra tweeted 350 times during the badger cull, but only sent out one formal press release.

While illustrating his point with an event that saw the government met with sustained opposition from many parts of the media may be a quixotic choice, there's no denying that Mr Aiken has a point when it comes to the changing nature of PR.

The symbiotic relationship between journalist and comms expert, so often fraught with frustration and mis-read intentions, has been fundamentally changed by the emergence of new technologies.

"We should go where the audience are rather than use the old mode of broadcast," argued the comms chief.

While this is obviously an especially tempting prospect for someone working in government - the idea being that his copy will no longer be stained by the parochial mud-slinging of the news media - taking control of content dissemination is also important for commercial advertisers.

Reaching audiences directly through social media and other mediums offers a unique opportunity to form strong links with consumers and take an active role in driving up the popularity of a brand or client.

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