Did you know that the first press release was sent in 1906? It might be tempting to dismiss a tactic that is just shy of celebrating a century in existence, particularly given the evolution of communications and marketing in recent years. When Ivy Lee, famed publicist and father of modern public relations, sent that first press release detailing a train wreck for his client the Pennsylvania Railroad, the world was a decidedly different place. Yet despite all the changes in how businesses connect with their audiences over the past nearly 100 years, press releases have endured.

While many have predicted that the rise of social media and its accompanying improved access to key audiences would be the downfall of press releases, that forecast has yet to come true. In fact, press releases are still very relevant. Below, we explore five reasons why they still matter today.

1. Establishing relationships with journalists. Consider press releases an icebreaker for potentially larger conversations with journalists, rather than the end-all be-all of those relationships. When you do your homework and send the right press release content to the right members of the press, you can often use that as a springboard for a beneficial long-term relationship for both parties. Press releases can be an easy way for members of the media to create new stories or add to ones in development. Just be sure to send quality information that is relevant to the recipient – much like batch and blast no longer works for email marketing, it isn’t an effective approach for media relations either. Tailor your outreach as much as possible so journalists view you and your business as a valuable source for future pieces.

2. Search engine optimization (SEO). Over the years, there has been debate surrounding the search engine optimization benefits of press releases, but we feel that SEO is one reason why press releases are still relevant today. While it’s true that putting one press release up on your website won’t move the SEO needle for you, there is value in continually posting them over time – particularly if you have a keyword strategy for your press releases. Over time, these optimized press releases can help position your organization as a thought leader and innovator. In addition, if you are sending your press releases out over the wire or earning coverage from other digital outlets, backlinks to your site are a great source for SEO.

3. Customer engagement. Your customers might not be the first audience that comes to mind when you think of press releases, but they can be a great way to keep customers informed. The approach to sending a press release to your customers should just be a little different than sending it to a member of the press. Let’s imagine that your company just launched a new product, for example. You could craft customer-specific messaging for an email and link to the press release on your website for full and official details. With some tweaks to the messaging, this approach could also be used with your prospects. Sharing press releases with these audiences provides you with new opportunities for outreach and to share your brand’s latest updates.

4. Creating content for other channels. Marketers today often struggle to create enough content to meet the demands of the multitude of available marketing channels. It can often feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to feed the content machine. Press releases are perfectly suited for publishing on company websites, blogs, social media and more. As we mentioned earlier in this post, just be sure that you are creating quality content with your press releases. The focus of the press release should be genuine news, in order to truly engage all your various audiences.

5. Relative affordability. Even for stretched-thin marketing budgets, press releases can still be a good option for publicity, promotion and communications today. If you send your press releases out to journalists and other channels on your own, it can be an especially low-cost endeavor, with only the need to account for staff time and resources. In addition, there are a number of press release distribution vendors, known as wire services, available to marketers today. While costs will vary according to the wire service and distribution options you choose, there are many affordable avenues that can help you get the most bang for your press release buck.

Happy Marketing!