Should You Stop Sending News Releases?
The above headline comes from The Press Gazette "Fighting For Journalism Website (https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/). Here is the link to the actual article https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/gwent-police-stops-press-releases/
This is nothing new.
For the last several years more and more law enforcement agencies have been opting out of sending out press releases and choosing to instead post their information solely to social media sites.
The latest is the Gwent Police in the UK.
But is this a practise that we should be embracing? No.
The most glaring problem I see is that law enforcement agencies are quick to tell you that the reason they are using social media is it allows for a greater degree of connection with the communities they serve. Let's look at that. The Problem Using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as the prime examples as they are also the tools that law enforcement use the most for their public outreach.
Twitter is often referred to as a firehose of information. No one can possibly see all the information that flows past at an alarmingly fast rate. To expect that your audience will see your press release is pretty far fetched unless that audience is hanging on your every tweet or receiving your information via mobile alerts. Facebook has one major draw back for your overall communication strategy. It's reach is absolutely pitiful. At best only 1% of your audience will ever see your information in an organic manner. Let's just say you're blessed and your audience reach is 2-5% and you have a 1000 followers. 20 to 50 people MAY see your press release. Instagram is an image and video based tool which no press release will ever get the attention it deserves. Take a screenshot, make a png image... it doesn't matter. The text is going to be so small that it really serves no useful purpose.
There are lots of reasons that law enforcement agencies have taken this approach and each can be valid given the resources available and the strategy that is being implemented.
Time, available personnel, follow up questions, phone calls.... the list can go on and on for why they've gone this route. One of the most popular reasons when it all started to happen was that was where the outreach was being focused because there was a great deal of value in the social media platforms. Those times have changed but law enforcement social media personnel and communications professionals haven't. They have failed to adjust to the downward trend of social media reach. Some will cite that the speed of a social media post makes it more appealing. I argue that speed means nothing if no one is seeing it.
Of course there is the truth that the mass majority of the public and main stream media are all using social media so why not just make it a one-stop shopping experience? Simply the volume of information makes this approach impractical. There are so many competing interests for your attention how can law enforcement possibly compete against advertising spending big money, fake news suing automated bot farms and social consciousness movements appealing to tribes of like minded people. The Solution Do it all.
Use social media but also use the old tried and true methods of delivering your information. Email is still one of the most effective ways to deliver your information to a captive and receptive audience. When someone signs up to receive your information through an email subscription service there is a lot more skin in the game than simply clicking a follow, like or friend button. Why not also add in a texting / SMS alert service or using FB Messenger to deliver your information? Make sure the information is also available prominently on your website. These are some of the most effective tools available right now due in large part to their perceived "one to one" basis. In a time when there is a massive fight for attention and an incredible need for valid, trusted and timely information from credible sources why wouldn't you use all available means necessary to reach your audience? Finally, and I use these words cautiously, "Customer Service" is not making people go through hoops to get information. It is meeting the needs of your audience as best you can with the resources you have available where THEY ARE, not where you WANT TO BE. "We want to allow more people to reach us in more ways using the technology and tools that they are using and that are available."... But only on our terms. See the problem? Your message your and your message don't align. That creates confusion in your audience, which can lead to trust issues which just leads to problems.... easily avoidable problems. PS - Before you come back at me with, "What about..." This doesn't apply to first instance crisis communications or emergencies... for that, Twitter is for now your goto tool.