Up until about 10 years ago the press release was still a powerful tool for companies to distribute news broadly to attract the attention of media and even drive queries from media who were interested in writing a story. The attraction of investing in press release distribution services was that the systems were developed to send relevant press releases directly to media.
With the advent of search, journalists now had other avenues to find unique new stories and sources giving access to more companies to be part of the narratives they told. It was no longer just big companies that could afford the expensive services who could get media attention. This gave advent to smaller distribution companies promising big returns – through their partners – but ultimately produced little interest from media. Press releases simply stopped performing for small businesses.
However, these paid services do keep your press release up online for a significant amount of time, giving businesses of every size a bit of a search “leg up”. Since these sights have a lot of content and traffic your press release may pop up their first if someone is searching for you but do not know that it’s you they are looking for.
Some History & Facts on Press Releases
Press releases, also known as news releases or media releases, in their simplest form, are written statements issued by companies, organizations, or individuals to announce news or information to the media and the public. They are typically sent to journalists, editors, and other media professionals with the aim of generating media coverage and publicity for the subject of the release.
Press releases are a common tool used in public relations (PR) efforts to communicate with the media and the public. They are often used to announce news such as new product launches, company updates, events, awards, or other noteworthy information like a startup’s successful fundraise.
Press releases are not always news: While press releases are intended to share news, not all press releases are truly newsworthy and will achieve any real media interest. Investors and stockholders like press releases, and simply putting out a press release can influence the market or perception of the company among key stakeholders. However, some companies choose to put press releases out continuously without anything meaningful to say.
And that’s why press releases are not a good PR strategy: It’s a “Crying Wolf” strategy. It's important to ensure that the information in a press release is truly newsworthy and not just promotional content. Journalists are more likely to cover press releases that contain timely, relevant, and interesting news that is of value to their audience, the market and the industry.
Press releases may not always result in media coverage: While press releases can be an effective PR tool, there is no guarantee that they will result in media coverage. Journalists receive numerous press releases every day, and they have to sift through them to identify newsworthy content. It's important to have realistic expectations and understand that not all press releases will result in media coverage.
Press releases are just one part of a comprehensive PR strategy: Press releases are just one tool in a larger public relations strategy but shouldn’t be relied on solely as a strategy. Effective PR efforts involve a combination of tactics, including media relations, content creation, social media, events, thought leadership and other communications activities.
What to Do Instead
Build up your website as a searchable content hub to attract media.
You do this by creating a space specifically designed for and dedicated to the media – an online newsroom. While a press release distribution site touts the ability to provide massive visibility, it is paid for and not long lasting. Besides, why wouldn’t you want media to come directly to your website to learn more?
When done well, a good online newsroom can not only be searchable, improving the odds a journalist will discover you, but it can give them everything they need to write the story or contact you for an interview.
Here’s how it can work for you: When our clients do not buy into the need for an online newsroom on their website, we create and host one on our website. Since it ranks high due to our content, we easily attract media to our website and then requests to speak to our clients. Most recently, a Washington Post writer found our client’s press release on consumer buying patterns and contacted us to interview them for a story.
Your online newsroom should include:
1. Your press releases in full. Downloadable documents are not searchable.
2. Sections for company spokespeople, their bios, topics they can speak on as an expert and video of them talking. Video allows broadcast media to see how these spokespeople would be like in an on camera interview.
3. A List of Story Ideas. If you have a list of interesting story ideas that media might be interested in, list them. They also happen to be searchable.
4. Company Fact Sheet.
5. Relevant Tip Sheets. Tip sheets can be great searchable content and helpful for consumer product writers or journalists looking for expert input for a story.
6. Logos of media that have written about your company or mentioned your product or service in a round up story.
7. Image Gallery. When media write a story, they like to include photos. Providing 5-7 photos, and variations of the logo, approved for use, offers media the ability to highlight your product or service. Make sure they are easy to access so media can use them right away without permission.
8. Additional Videos. If you have a product that requires demonstration to visualize its use or you’re a SAAS business, videos can give media an additional understanding of why what you offer is so unique. Give them a taste of the video with the ability to instantly view. They also like using video in stories because they are much more engaging than reading. When it comes to video, it’s important to make sure that it is high resolution and easily downloadable from a credible third-party like Vimeo, if you’re unable to host it on your website.
9. Broll Packages. Speaking of video, broadcast media are always looking for existing video that they can edit and use for a story. Making their job easier by providing the broll package for them allows a reporter to pull what they want of approved footage, ensuring that your company, product or service is shown the way you prefer.
10. List of upcoming events the company and its spokespeople will be at. This gives media the opportunity to see and meet people from the company in person, or make plans to schedule time with them at a trade show or conference that they are also attending.
Rethinking your PR strategy for search with an online newsroom that is updated regularly is a valuable way to further meet the needs of media and your PR objectives. They are often working on more than one story at a time. When you make it easy for them to tell your story they are more likely to do so.