Press releases. Love 'em or hate 'em, entrepreneurs and companies spend large sums of money sending them out every year. Some have to because they're publicly-traded and others do so because they believe that a press release is a crucial part of 'spreading the word' about their products and services.
If I had $100 for every entrepreneur I've met who expected a press release to do big things for his or her new business, I'd probably own my own bank in Antigua.
Here are 5 reasons why press releases suck:
- There are too many of them. Thousands upon thousands of press releases are issued each day through the major wire services. That makes it very hard to stand out.
- Most are not interesting. I'd say that about 95% of the releases I read are just not interesting. Read a few. You'll probably agree.
- Many are poorly written. You probably don't need to browse through many press releases each day to find releases containing typos, grammatical errors and poor sentence structure.
- They're expensive. Sending a press release out on a major wire service can easily cost close to $1,000 depending on the selected distribution options.
- They often don't get the job done. In many cases, press releases can attract more inquiries from people trying to sell you their products and services than they do actual press inquiries.
So are press releases a total waste? No. They usually suck because they're used improperly and are not 'optimized' for success. In other words, the problem is with the messages, not the medium.
When used properly, press releases can be a useful in building exposure, driving traffic and reaching key parties, including stakeholders and members of the press. To accomplish these things however, press releases need to be a part of a larger PR and marketing strategy and they need to be executed well. Here are some tips for accomplishing the latter:
- Don't go press release crazy. Since you press release is competing with thousands of others on any given day, you'll want to be judicious in when you issue one. Is one really necessary? Do I have an interesting 'story' to tell? If you can't objectively answer 'yes!' to questions like that, think twice about whether a press release is a good idea.
- Only submit when you have sizzle and steak. Press releases are typically great for selling the sizzle. After all, chances are you can't tell your entire story in 400 words or less. So the goal of your press release is primarily to spark interest. To do that, however, there has to be some steak to back up the sizzle. If you're announcing something that really isn't substantive or you're trying to spin something uninteresting to make it trendy (eg. relating a mundane product to, say, Twitter), do yourself a favor and reconsider the idea of a press release.
- Consider hiring a professional. A good writer with experience writing press releases can make a huge difference. Without good copy and a compelling angle, a press release is almost worthless. A professional can help provide both if you need it.
- Shop around and think twice about distribution options. There are a number of wire services and a handful of majors. Pricing can vary and some have a reputation for servicing certain markets better than others so do your research. When it comes to distribution, be sure to evaluate what you really need. Do you need national or international distribution, for instance, or is regional distribution more appropriate?
- Engage in your own outreach. Don't expect to put out a press release one day and have the BBC and New York Times beating down your door the next. You're going to have to hustle for results. That means engaging in your own outreach. Do you know local reporters who might have an interest in your story? Contact them directly and be persistent (but not rude and annoying). While I'm not necessarily a fan of PR agencies, it's worth remembering that the best PR agencies achieve typically results through targeted, personal outreach, not the blasting of press releases.
Photo credit: Robbie1 via Flickr.