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Press Releases

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PR types love talking about press releases. Should you use them? Should you bag ‘em all together? What purpose do they serve? Who reads them? Do they lead to media coverage? The list goes on. And depending on who’s selling what, you’ll get different answers. But let’s think about it from a use case perspective.

In most cases, the user is the reporter, blogger, producer, etc. that you’re trying to reach with the hopes of garnering some interest and, ultimately, some objective editorial that does a thing. That thing might be to drive traffic. It might be to build brand awareness. It might be SEO. It might be to get in front of folks with money who can help you raise a round. 

Ultimately, you use your news to get attention from the folks who have the eyes and ears of the people you are trying incite action in. And that begs the question: Does a press release do that? 

In short, the answer’s no. But let’s dig deeper.

Say you decide to pen a press release. You write it up and select any of the numerous newswire “distribution” services to “get it out there!” The zero hour comes, your news release goes out. It’s a matter of minutes until the phone starts ringing with rabid reporter inquiries for “more information!”  

Minutes turn into hours; hours into half the day. Hmmmm. What gives? “I’ll check my newswire distribution report! That’ll tell me what’s going on,” you say. Lo and behold, it shows hundreds of “views.” Further down the funnel it shows a percentage of “pickups!” That’s good right? That gives you hard data to report up the chain, yes?

Not really. A “view” doesn’t really mean much at all. On top of that who (or what) is doing the viewing? And a “pickup?” That basically means some bot on a news site (usually of little value and/or reach and usually not the keeper of your sought after audience) is programmed to post verbatim certain (or even not that certain) press releases. That’s not exactly the objective editorial most companies/products/services/causes are seeking—which makes you wonder: who’s reading this “pickup?” The answer is probably no one.

So what’s the alternative?

We’re firm believers in cultivating authentic (surprising, right?) relationships with a small batch of reporters, writers, bloggers, producers, etc. that actually give a damn about you, your company, your product, whatever (aka, they cover your space). Help them when you don’t need help (translation: make their lives easier when you don’t need media coverage). Engage in their work (comment, socialize). And when you have news, give them an advanced heads up. Don’t promise embargoes or anything like that as that will fail and people will get mad and blacklist you for life. Simply shoot them all INDIVIDUAL emails that you’ve got some news coming out that might be of interest and that you’ll be posting it to your company news page or blog at a specific date and time. 

Why your newsroom or blog? Why not a distribution service? Well, besides the associated cost, posting your news within your own domain does a few things: 

  1. It gets readers inside your domain. From there, they can look around. Hell, they might even sign up or purchase.
  2. If you have a good library of previous media coverage, that helps legitimize this particular news. (Imagine you’ve gone to great strides to get a blogger to acknowledge your existence to the point that they’re clicking through to the blog link you send them. Then the see all this over coverage and content and—wait for it—your product! Wins all around, right?)
  3. If you’re the type that likes to socialize your news (hint, hint), why would you want to circulate a link to an external page hosting your news? You miss out on the aforementioned points and it diminishes trust. 

And what exactly should you post? Please… please not a press release cut and pasted. Your company and your blog have a tone; a voice. From how-to posts to customer features to thought pieces to company news, you have to maintain that. It creates familiarity. It creates trust. It creates consistency. So perhaps instead of leading with “Today, COMPANY X, the [self-proclaimed] global leader in INDUSTRY, has announced the release of the disruptive, game-changing, paradigm-shifting PRODUCT. NAME, COMPANY X CEO said, “We’re thrilled, excited and still excited…" you lead your blog post with "Today’s the day: we’re pushing out PRODUCT. Here’s what’s cool about it… We’d love to get your feedback. Here’s why it’s relevant… Shoot us an email, tweet at us… whatever your du jour. And if you’re interested in blogging about or covering this news, give a shout and we’ll get you anything you need." BONUS TIP: include videos, images, links to other materials (screenshots, logos, sign-up/purchase page, etc. You basically want to anticipate the first round of follow-up questions.

Once you’ve posted, ping your small batch with the link and a friendly, “News is out, here if you need” note. 

So what does all this say about the press release? Consider bypassing it unless you can find a specific value.

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