By Heather Baker, @TopLineFounder
You’ve identified your news story and you’ve written your press release, and you’re convinced it’s a cracker. That’s the easy bit done, and now you’re faced with the hard task of placing it. You have a number of options open to you from newswires to press release distribution sites, but unfortunately in PR, as in real life, there are no shortcuts and nothing will ever replace good old fashioned hard work. However, if good old fashioned hard work is not for you, here are some ways you can waste your time, piss off journalists and even throw away some hard earned cash in the process.
One way to get your release in front of the media is to mail it out en masse to journalists. When I say ‘in front of the media’, I mean ‘to fleetingly pass through the inboxes of a large number of journalists before being quickly ignored, deleted or blocked.’ Yes, the old mail merge might have been effective in 2002 when most people didn’t have email and before spam was invented. That was back in the Halcyon Days of the internet, when it was still spelt with a capital 'I' and when journalists sat at their computers in anticipation, counting down the seconds for an email to arrive. Unfortunately, it’s 2012, which will probably be referred to as part of ‘The Post-Angry-Birds Period’ by future internet historians, and journalists frankly have better things to do than wait around to be bcc’d into untargeted media release emails.
“Untargeted?” you argue. “But I would make sure mine was spot on target.” Sadly I don’t believe you. That’s because creating accurate media lists is an art (I don’t care what Gorkana and CisionPoint say – no software programme or database exists that magically churns out the list you need because journalists cannot be reduced to tick boxes), and you have almost certainly not mastered it (I’ll be writing about media databases in great detail in a few weeks – watch this space!).
So, in summary, if you are using the old mail merge method, you will:
There are heaps of free press release distribution sites, the vast majority of which are a massive waste of your precious browsing minutes. The only people who visit them are usually doing so in desperation to upload their media releases for tiny splash of 'coverage', so if your target audience is the most incompetent junior marketing executives at your most ineffective competitors, then you have a small chance of reaching them through free press release distribution sites.
Why are these sites such a load of tosh? Surely posting your press release on a free site is better than nothing? Well, maybe, but only marginally. Sadly, thanks to a detailed investigation of 60 free sites by Vitis PR (for which the PR profession should be exceptionally grateful) we know that:
The conclusion was that only a small handful of these sites provide any value, and that value is minimal. However, if you’re still interested, then Vitis has kindly provided a list of free sites on their blog post on the subject.
And that brings me to newswires – paid services that range from being a moderate waste of money to a total waste of money. Newswires have earned their place on my list of things in PR that annoy me for a number of reasons.
Firstly, because you pay you can post whatever you want on a newswire, so companies get away with posting any old boring crap. Look at today’s news on PR NewsWire and Response Source (I’m talking about the business news here not the regulatory news – I don’t have much experience in regulatory news and therefore don’t feel well placed to comment on the subject) – I’ve linked to the home pages there because I am confident that for the foreseeable future you will be able to find plenty examples of organisations lazily writing rubbish under the false impression that by doing so and posting them on newswires they are conducting media relations. So your news might well be sent to scores of journalists, but what are the chances of them reading it, when it is buried amongst a pile of nonsense stories about new websites or a regional 20-person media company restructuring its management team?
My second issue with newswires lies in the weird contradiction that they only work if you have a great story (and even that is no guarantee of success because the chances of it getting missed amongst the crap are so high). But if you have a great story you should be able to place it very easily without having to pay a newswire for the privilege, so they struggle to justify their value to me.
That said, I have used newswires in the past and occasionally still do. I have found that the only time they are of any value is if your story genuinely has the potential to reach a wide audience and you don’t have the resources to pitch all the relevant media. In those instances, you probably need to pay extra to use, for example, the Press Association Newswire (an add-on service to most of the major newswires) to get your astounding release in front of loads of journalists at one time. Other than that, I’m sorry, I’m just not convinced, but would welcome comments from other PRs on how they have fared with newswire coverage.
That brings me to the best, and (in my experience) only, proven way to place your news story is - by pitching it. This is time consuming and labour intensive, but, if done properly (which few people do!) it can be exceptionally rewarding, and result in coverage of your release, detailed features, great relationships with journalists and more.
So, there you have it – my take on press release distribution based on my experience of making pretty much every mistake in the book! The upshot is, don’t bother with the shortcuts – draft a great release based on a good story and make pitching the core of your press release placement strategy and you can’t go wrong!
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The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.
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