Many entrepreneurs pay a public relations company to issue a press release and expect wonders immediately after the fact. Their expectations include:
- Coverage in the most important press outlets
- Sales boost
- Traffic overflow
- SEO advantages (mainly backlinks)
What many of these business people fail to understand is that a press release is not a magic wand to charm the readers into buyers.
This doesn’t mean that issuing a press release is pointless, this doesn’t mean that only big companies can use this PR strategy to broadcast their news – it just means that to be effective press releases need to be tailored to best impact the desired audience.
How Effective Is Online Distribution?
Everything has a price. Free distribution services will never offer the coverage of a paid service.
- Open PR will take you to Google News, but that’s about all you’ll get.
- Low-budget services like PRLeap are worth the trouble only when you want some “basic” exposure in the search engines and some second tier industry outlets.
- PRWeb has some of the lowest fees in the industry for high media visibility (including Associated Press Distribution) and in my experience submissions via this outlet work best for small sized companies operating on a small PR budget.
- For even better exposure and visibly higher budgets GlobeNewswire could be an option, or if you don’t mind going through time consuming hoops and loops to understand how it works you could try BusinessWire, which is also a service recommended by Reuters.
In any case we cannot ignore the need of additional help from a professional PR consultant, who knows what is newsworthy and what not.
Who Is to Blame When a Press Release Doesn’t Deliver the Expected Results?
There could be many factors, and I can only speak from personal experience.
As a general rule there are no real “guilty parts.” The media reacts to the needs of the public, so if news about a revolutionary cleaning product is given less importance than news about Britney Spears, this is just because the public is obviously more interested in the last, and not because the press release was bad.
There are, however two situations when either the PR or the client are to blame.
- A stubborn client who doesn’t understand that there is basically nothing newsworthy in his release and he wants the PR to distribute it at all cost.
- A PR who doesn’t care about his client’s needs and distributes the press release without advising whether this is timely, newsworthy, etc.
As PR professionals we cannot really change the way our customers see the world, but we can, and it is our duty to, always work in the best interest of our clients. The PR who distributes press releases that are obviously inferior does not act in the best interest of his client. This is not an ethical professional.
How to Identify the Ethical PR Adviser?
Without the actual “person” encounter it is hard to read people. Online you often have to trust your instincts and of course to do a basic research about the professional you want to hire. You could contact the companies listed in the portfolio of the PR agent you want to employ and ask for references or you could monitor the online reputation of that professional by performing a simple Google search – although in many cases PR professionals prefer to keep a low profile as many clients demand discretion.
There are some PR professionals who are new in the industry – but this doesn’t make their services less valuable. Employing a beginner is risky (lack of experience can be a factor in the failure of a PR campaign, but press releases are or should be just part of a PR campaign), but lack of experience is not synonym with unethical.
The professional who is committed to ethics will tell you from the start whether your release is newsworthy. He will also make a market survey to see if the public is ready for the news and he will choose the best distribution plan for you. When the release is not newsworthy, the PR advisor has the moral duty to inform you about the negative effects of publishing it. Among these:
- No one will pick up and/or cover the story
- The press release distribution method will prove too expensive
- There will be no obvious traffic and SEO advantages after the distribution
Not to Say that Press Releases Are Dead, But…
Understand that even the most newsworthy release might fail if it has to compete against more powerful and more popular news. In the end we are all at the mercy of “his highness the public.” A press release is just a PR tool – one of the many you have to plan in your budget. Press releases don’t work alone anymore, especially not online where the users are tired of being spammed with information they don’t request. You’ll need to expand your horizon and try to understand how the Web works. If you decide to use online PR ask your PR adviser to expand the means used to make your company and products known through all means that are fit for your industry and your target audiences. PR is an ongoing process and you’ll need to treat is as such.