Like all small businesses, my work email finds its way onto many lists. My junk email box is a menagerie for everything from VC offers to bank loans, opportunities to advertise my business, companies selling me their services and the occasional random millionaire in Nigeria. This morning, I received one that I almost deleted until reading the first line available in preview, and it really got my goat.
“Successful businesses must send press releases on a regular and consistent schedule.
Weekly or monthly press releases work best. That is why we offer unlimited PR distribution for only $299/year for a single company."
See, I am not a fan of businesses misleading potential clients and
customers with uneducated, inexperienced lies, and I will call you out. In this instance, I am going to refrain from using the company’s name – small world and all. When they see this, they will know who they are.
Here’s my beef: this company is selling a press release service without understanding how news, press releases and distribution work today, and have for, like, always.
Kind of surprising, right? They are promoting a false tactic for the sole purpose of selling you in.
You don’t just send out press releases because it’s Tuesday and Bob wore a green shirt to the office. No, you send out a press release when you have news, a real story to tell about your company. If that is weekly, great. If it’s every month, fantastic. However, it is not this way for all businesses. On average about 90% of businesses only have compelling news to put out a few times a year, maybe quarterly or maybe bimonthly (depends on the industry and growth rate). Only companies like Apple or Amazon and Netflix have cause to send a press release every week, and they still don’t.
I wrote this guest post for NBCChicago.com’s “Inc. Well” which is worth a read. Sending out a press release for the sake of sending out a press release is never a good tactical part of your overall strategy - "Crying Wolf" and all...
It's worth mentioning that my editor at the time loved the advice I was sharing and especially praised this one.
Press releases seem to be that one idea that always comes up when a business doesn’t know how to attract more business. They believe that if they write it, the media will just magically come and write a story that will attract millions of dollars in business. Better yet, bombarding press releases every week, without any real content, they believe the media will continue to come and sales will continue to climb. Companies like the one above make unsuspecting businesses feel that potential, when it’s simply not true.
The press release isn't dead. It's just been re-purposed. See, today, it's really about these four things:
1. Search - People, even media, don't know about you until they start searching, and you need to make it east for them to find you. One of the many ways is through linking keywords from your website across other digital marketing platforms - articles, social media, digital press release distribution services.
2. A Great Story - This has always been true, and it will always be true. Today, it is never truer than true that, to generate media attention, you need a strong, compelling, timely and newsworthy story. They don't come around every day and require careful preparation to really make it stick, but they can really work for your business.
3. Direct Contact - As I've said, press release distribution sites have their merit and benefits, especially for search, but nothing can compete with a direct approach strategy with custom angles for media to ensure you give them what they need to tell your story with as little effort as possible.
4. Share - Once you achieve a media placement, return the favor by sharing, even boosting, the story across your social media outlets and in client newsletters. Spreading valuable endorsements signals potential customers to your credibility as a company, encouraging sales, brand loyalty and engagement (even sharing) with the brand online.
For the inexperienced in PR, this particular press release distribution sites’ promotion sounds like a great deal, and trust me, it is, if you have no expectations of an actual return, but of setting yourself up to be found online instead, somewhere in the future.
Finally, my last beef with this short email, that says so much, is that apparently this a tactic that “successful companies” use. Guess what, it’s not. Successful companies hire or work with smart people who know news, how it works and how to create it to position a company within the market, and most importantly how not to “Cry Wolf”, leaving your business in the wind.