When it comes to effective PR, editors are the real experts. I was delighted that Per Henricsson, editor at Elektroniktidningen sent me the following thoughts about the importance of dates on press releases:

Does the date really matter?

Per HenricssonRecently I got a press release about a new ground-breaking product from well known company. Well, actually it was sent by their PR agency, but that’s business as usual. I get tons of press releases and when the daily one from a big US semiconductor company appears in my e-mail at 5 pm, I know it’s time to start heading home.

Normally, I just read the headlines of the press releases before clicking on the delete button, but this one caught my attention despite the fact that it was fairly long. ”…. world’s thinnest waterproof …” product of its kind. “This is something that my readers would be interested in and something I can easily turn into a story for our website”, I thought.

Of course I had to translate it into Swedish first, I couldn’t just copy and paste like my English colleagues. In Sweden we have a saying that goes “never check a good story”. The thin and waterproof component sounded familiar, so I did a search on our website.

Bingo! I remembered correctly. One and a half years ago, the company issued a press release saying that the they had developed the world’s thinnest and waterproof product of that kind. I had written the piece and I was beginning to feel stupid. The new press release didn’t offer that many details, so I still couldn’t be sure that it was the same ”product” I already had written about. I gave the part number to Google and my fast and cheap research department rewarded me with a hit. It turned out to be the original English press release issued by the company on December 12 last year. Today was January 25, 2012. Fooled again!

Normally I would just say the f-word, ditch the story and begin with another one, but this time I sent a short e-mail to PR-agency asking them why they had changed the date on the press release? The original was dated December 12 and the one they sent was a more vague “January 2012”. It’s hard to express oneself in a foreign language and maybe I wasn’t clear enough when I wrote the question. The answer I got simply stated “Did you mean compared to product availability in Japan?”

A similar thing happened with one of the high profile semiconductor companies last spring. Their PR agency changed the date on the press release regarding a soft core from May 2 to May 4, the day they sent me the press release.

The reason? A public holiday in Europe prevented them from sending the press release on the correct date, hence the date had to be altered. We didn’t have that day off in Sweden so I had picked up the story from my US colleagues and published it the day before I got the press release.

That’s just two examples. I’m sure most of them just slip trough unnoticed. And does it really matter? Probably not. A product is interesting to my readers a long time after it is released. A news story is still “new” if my readers haven’t seen it before. But, the world is shrinking all the time. And If I get caught, my readers regard me as lazy and ignorant. And they lose confidence in me in the same way I lose confidence in the PR agencies.

So does the date really matter? I’d love to hear what other agencies and journalists think about this issue.

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