The slow, painful death of a press release in 22 days

An anonymous digital marketer details the bureaucratic hoops a press release has to jump through before it can be released, stale and no longer newsworthy, to the world.

I recently had reason to go through the process of preparing a press release for an Australian company which had been recognised with a major award by one of the world’s most successful technology corporations.

What resulted is the entirely true story of a soul withering and Kafka-esque tale of mega bureaucracy; a story so absurd it’ll make you… I really don’t know. All of my senses have been numbed at this stage. Cringe in acknowledgment of the utter pointlessness of existence, maybe? Or is that just me?

Here goes…

Day 1, coffee #1 down: The story begins: A Sydney company wins a significant global award. Mega-corporation who is honouring them with said award suggests successful Sydney company should publicise the good news. A win-win! Let’s get this exciting development out into the market. High fives and back slaps all around, guys.

Day 1, later that morning: Award-giving mega-corporation suggests award-receiving company use one of the corp’s pre-prepared, pre-approved press release templates to create their press release. Upon receipt of said document, the modifiable portion requires just one two-line quote from the company who’s won the award. An entirely uncontroversial quote from CEO of successful company is inserted. Perfect. Even faster turn around to get this big news out into the market. More high fives.

Still day 1, coffee #2 going down nicely: Corporation’s Super Senior Comms Person requests pre-prepared, pre-approved press release is submitted for “legal approval” prior to dissemination. Given that the press release is still 95% the same content supplied by said corporation, this seems a tad excessive. But that’s cool. Process is important. Plus, we all love approval, legal or otherwise, right?

Still day 1: Shoot across press release for review. Senior Corporate Comms Person immediately responds that she loves it and doesn’t want to waste any time making sure we can all capitalise on this great news!

Just kidding, what she actually says is: “With everyone at (mega-corp) tied up with (insert international mega-corp event) we won’t be able to push this through the approval process. I can review this early next week when I am back and I can then help you push this through HQ and legal approval.” Slow intake of breath while sipping tea in manner of Kermit the Frog meme.

Day 8, the first follow up: Request that Senior Corporate Comms Person provide an update on the approval of the pre-approved release. Senior Corporate Comms Person replies that she’s “not back full time from the function until tomorrow”. Of course.

Day 9, FFS: Senior Corporate Comms Person requests the pre-approved press release in need of approval be re-sent to her as she can’t locate it in her inbox anymore. Despite disapproval of this disorganisation, the pre-prepared, pre-approved press release is re-forwarded again for urgent approval.

Day 9, an hour later: Question from the very same Senior Corporate Comms Person who suggested the use of pre-approved template: “Is this press release based on an approved template?”

Senior Corporate Comms Person then requests information on who the awardee’s “rep who can validate this release” is. Confused, but make note to self: In the upside-down world, approval is not enough. Always seek validation.

Day 10: Distantly-sounding trumpets herald the arrival of long-awaited news regarding the whereabouts of the elusive pre-approved press release, for which approval is still being sought. Senior Corporate Comms Person: “I have sent your release to local lead who will get us approval from the quoted person. Once I have that I can send it across to HQ, which would ideally mean early next week.”

Day 14: Award officially now a distant memory, 10,000 news cycles have churned, even the CEO has forgotten all about it, various celebrities have since been both married and divorced, several species have become extinct, etc.

Follow up again with Senior Corporate Comms person, mostly out of morbid curiosity. Senior Corporate Comms person responds: “The release is now with the local team. They need to share it with the spokesperson for him to review the quote and then it goes to HQ.”

Day 15: OUT OF THE BLUE. Senior Corporate Comms Person: “Update. Release is approved currently pending with legal for final comments will keep you posted.”

Day 15 – 21: With pre-prepared, pre-approved press release languishing, approved yet not approved, these days are spent questioning what is real and what is not. Numbness pervades body.

Day 21: In a moment that will come to define the meaning of ‘anti-climactic’ in the Oxford Dictionary, pre-prepared, pre-approved press release is approved without changes and forwarded to industry media to highlight now-three-week-old award.

Day 22: Only one of four publications picks up release. So few shits are given that a popular toilet paper company goes out of business. The world turns. Said corporation makes an extra $2.21 billion in revenue in time period which has elapsed (actual figure). Cry softly while pondering the meaning of life, the universe and everything.


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