Despite receiving a glut of press releases every day, I make use of only one or two a week, and it's a number that's common across the board. According to a Media Standards Trust debate on 'Churnalism' last month, a massive 90% of press releases are never covered – the rest are left to sit in email archive folders and computer recycling bins.
Even without these damning figures, the demise of the press release has been a long time coming. HEIs are already turning to new and innovative ways of delivering news-worthy content, for example through social media campaigns, smartphone applications, video releases or press conference events.
And for some PR commentators this step change couldn't come soon enough. Kyle Christie, who works in press relations at Kings College London, said on his personal blog that universities are "still too hooked" on the idea that PR is based on media coverage. He went so far as to say that HEIs need to leapfrog the mainstream media and engage its audience directly through "video, audio, slide shows or hosting debates, events and using social media."
Adding to that idea is Alistair Wheate, who sums up the issue on the Glide Technologies blog: "Who is the target audience for your press releases? If the answer that comes to mind is 'journalists' then think again. Do journalists buy your products or services? They might do if you are a well-known consumer brand, but probably not. The real audience is likely to be a mix of your current or potential customers, investors (where applicable), current and future employees, partners and range of other important stakeholders."
Bearing these issues in mind, this Friday 5 August, we're inviting HE media specialists and university press officers to join us to discuss how HEIs can innovate and develop their communications. We'll be looking at online channels, social media platforms, new engagement methods and even existing tools, so please join us to share your own techniques, insights and best practice.
Panel to follow
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010