Do you really need to write another press release, ever? There’s a lot of talk among PR professionals and business owners weighing the merits of that standard form of corporate communication.

Press releases have long been considered the center of a public relations campaign and the main method of getting the word out about your company. Any newsworthy event, from a branch opening to a product launch, might merit a press release. But is the concept of a press release outdated?

Behind the press release is the theory that editorial content is far more valuable than advertising. A journalistic article written about your new product provides far more credibility to the consumer than a paid advertisement.

Let’s examine the life of a release. Either an internal marketing person or an outside consultant develops the news hook that forms the impetus for the release. In an ideal world, a witty, eye catching headline is crafted, and the body of the release closely resembles a news article. So much so that in many cases the release is reprinted wholesale in column inches. The Sacramento Bee is famous for repurposing press releases. By that token, if you put your release on PRWeb or PRNewswire, your release will get an SEO boost when those services post it on the internet.

Most of the time, a press release is sent out to writers and editors, historically on paper and increasingly as an email attachment, either as a mass mailing or in a more targeted fashion. Like any direct mail campaign, you can expect to see a 1 to 3 percent rate of return. For every 100 releases you send out, you might get nibbles from one to three reporters. Follow up a well written press release with a solid media relations campaign and you can boost those numbers considerably.

In this way, a press release, well written, well timed, and properly nurtured, is still a very effective means of getting the word out. Reporters and editors are always looking for a good story, and if you’ve done your homework, you know exactly which writer covers your chosen topic and the best way to get her attention. If you are a PR professional, you probably already have a relationship with a select handful of reporters, easing the path further and increasing the likelihood of a media hit.

Here’s the problem: journalism no longer has all the power. The search engine, not the managing editor, is the new content curator. When businesses can collapse the process of reaching readers, circumnavigating the newspaper and publishing newsworthy content themselves, the press release becomes far less important. In some cases, it becomes completely irrelevant.

There is no doubt that in the hierarchy of trusted information, journalistic entities are still at the top of the heap. But the shift is well underway. As the power of the fifth estate dwindles, so does the power of the press release.