Why can’t the PR community break its addiction to the word, “Press”?

Barely a nanosecond goes by in which one or another public relations practitioner preaches about the power of social media, which is uploaded copy via a series of ones and zeroes or digital technology. And these same evangelists in the next breath also lament about the astounding decline of traditional media, particularly newspapers as evidenced by the recent deaths of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and the Seattle Post Intelligencer.  Certainly there will be more newspaper burials in the coming months and years.

If electronic media is expanding with the widespread acceptance of digital radio and high-definition television, and the advent of Twitter, LinkedIn.com, Facebook, blogging, podcasting, webcasting etc., then why are we refusing to let go of the word, “Press”? Why should we care? It’s just a simple five-letter, one-syllable word. Right?

The reason is the word “Press” harkens back to Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press in 1450, not the digital age of the 21st Century.  The Oxford English Dictionary refers to the word in its noun form as “the art or practice of printing.” Let’s face it, the word “Press” is an anachronism that points to a distant past, not to the future.

A casual survey of 20 major corporation websites, even some companies that strive to be at the top of the coolness scale, reveals a slavish devotion to the words, “Press Room,” “Press Kits” and of course, “Press Releases.” Here’s a novel thought for consideration: “Media,” “Media Room,” “Media Kits,” “News Releases,” and “News Conferences.” The beauty of these latter words is they cover the old (pencil press) and the new (digital radio, high-definition television and social media).

What is surprising is that some of the older companies in terms of age, not mindset, have banished the word “Press” from their websites. Wells Fargo www.wellsfargo.com refers to “News Releases” and provides the media with a “News Room.” Oh by the way, the Stage Coach company was founded in 1852. Another example is Texas Instruments, which was founded in 1951 in its present form www.ti.com. TI references its “News Center” and “News Room” and offers journalists access to “Media Contacts.”

Another refreshing banishment of the word “Press” is employed by online auctioneer, eBay www.ebay.com, which provides a “News Room” with “Recent Stories” and archives its “In the News” and provides reporters with “Media Contacts.”

Even though I cannot make this statement with impunity, there appears to be no mistake that the word “Press” is nowhere to be found on the websites of Wells Fargo, Texas Instruments and eBay. These companies get it and they want to show the world in the way they speak that they have embraced 21st Century realities. Press is dead.

Alas, the following companies (not an exhaustive list by any means) all use the word “Press” one way or another and in some cases everywhere on their respective websites: Apple, AMD, Charles Schwab, Chevron, Cisco, HP, IBM, Intel, LSI,  Microsoft, Nike, Oracle, Pfizer, Salesforce.com, Starbucks, Visa and even . . . Google.

Some will wonder whether we are making a mountain out of a molehill in this discussion. After all isn’t “Press” just another word to describe the “Media?” Try that one out on to a member of the traditional electronic media — radio and television — and see how enamored they are with the word. It is doubtful that bloggers, who are gaining greater influence with each passing day, would accept being described as “Press.”

Let’s make it our resolution for 2010 and the second decade of the 21st Century and give the 14th Century word, “Press,” a decent and proper burial, particularly from corporate, non-profit, educational and government websites. It’s not just time, it’s past time to attend to this Pressing Business.

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