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Press release distribution is something that we are consistently asked about on our training courses and PR and social media related events. A growing number of commercial news distribution services and free services offer different ways to boost press release and related content visibility to media, through search and social media.
So how can you tell which press release distribution services count? What is a social media news release? What are the opportunities and potential pitfalls for businesses and agencies disseminating their news in this way?
I asked Adam Parker from RealWire and Daryl Willcox from DWP Publishing, MDs of two of the UK's most successful news distribution services, to provide some clarity and explain how businesses should use news distribution as a successful part of their online communications and marketing strategy.
For those who haven’t used a press release distribution service before, can you explain what they are and how they benefit brands and organizations?
Adam: They assist organisations to reach a wider audience for their stories through the provision of content hosting platforms including multimedia; improve online visibility through being listed on search engines and news aggregators such as Google News and distribution to relevant journalists, publishers and bloggers through RSS, Email and Twitter.
The benefits are they save you time and money, assist with search engine optimisation and help create increased influential coverage.
Daryl: Press release distribution services allow you to communicate your news announcements to the media quickly and easily and with the added benefit of creating increased online visibility for your brand.
While there is much more to PR than sending press releases, the digital world has breathed new life into the press release by making it more dynamic and a central reference point for any campaign. Online press release distribution is a key element in any reputation management exercise.
What are the key differences between Realwire and Daryl Willcox Publishing'?
Adam: Specialism - RealWire is 100% focused on news distribution DWP provides a range of services of which this is just one. Online focus - we are wholly targeted at the online media and have been for the nine years we have been operating which we think gives us a fairly unique level of expertise in this arena.
Inclusive tracking and evaluation of the impact and potential influence your release has achieved and finally our Social Media News Release service which was the first of its kind in the UK (in fact the Econsultancy article about it still ranks highly in Google!)
Daryl: DWPub's press release wires are populist services, reaching a wide audience of both traditional and new media audiences as well as offering excellent search engine optimisation (SEO) features. Our customers benefit from our two very established brands and websites – www.responsesource.com and www.sourcewire.com – which have been around since 1998.
Journalists have a high regard for these sites as they offer more than just press releases and as a former journalist I have made sure our services work for the media. This heritage is as important to journalists as it is to search engines, which rank our sites highly because of their reputation. Our pricing is keen, starting at just £45 per release, with options including multimedia and Release Stats which gives metrics for each release.
What are the key elements to a good Press Release Distribution Service (PRDS)?
Daryl: A reputable brand is an important starting point. Press release distribution is all part of reputation management, so any PRDS you use should not reflect badly on your own brand. A good PRDS should also offer distribution to journalists and newsdesks as well as making your releases visible online. That's the only way to ensure the best impact for your releases.
A good PRDS should also give you good 'social media press release' functionality, particularly the ability to include embedded links. Beware free or very cheap press release wires that have no standing with the media and simply syndicate to a load of sites of dubious quality. Syndication is useful – we do it to carefully selected sites – but what you really want is your releases on a wire that commands influence in its own right.
Adam: Our saying is right people, right time, right format. Do they have distribution potential to sites that are relevant to you? Can they demonstrate that they get results? Do they understand the importance of timing? Do they allow you to tell your story in different ways – video, images? Do they understand SEO? Can they explain the impact you have achieved?
Don’t get drawn in my numbers e.g. we have 100,000 contacts we have 1m visitors. The vast majority of these contacts and visitors will not be relevant to you and your story. At best you will therefore end up getting a lot less than you perceived at worst you will be contributing to the massive amount of PR spam that gets created.
What is the difference between a social media release and an online press release? Should marketers create one or the other or both?
Daryl: The whole 'social media press release' thing winds me up. The original development of the idea by Todd Defren was very sound from an academic perspective. But nobody in their right mind should ever produce a press release that includes every element in his social media press release template.
It might be good for SEO but nobody would want to read it.
The various elements of the social media press release template all have their reasons for being, but good practice suggests you should only use the ones that work in context with the release.
In answer to your question, any release that includes basic social media press release elements – embedded links for example – and is available publicly on the internet is a social media press release in my mind. By that token I would argue DWPub has been in the social media press release distribution for over 12 years.
Adam: Firstly a press release doesn’t become an online release just because it is published on a website. A true online press release is a release that is designed to work in the online world, the press release was designed with the press in mind.
A “real” social media release was originally about no spin from a Tom Foremski blog post Die press release die die die. It evolved into a release that was designed for the online world as a whole of which social media is just one part.
What most people perceive as a SMR is what I would think of as a true online news release. That means a format that takes advantage of the breadth of digital tools to tell your story not just the written word – audio, video, images etc; that is designed to facilitate conversation by allowing people to share it, link to it, comment on it and track resulting reactions; that helps to direct people to other places where relevant information to the topic can be found through links; and is written and designed in such as way as to be accessible by everyone from a journalist to an end reader.
I agree with Daryl's point about utilising the relevant elements that enhance storytelling not just building in elements for the sake of it.
Why shouldn’t marketers just use the free press release distribution services?
Daryl: You get what you pay for with free press release distribution services. Enough said.
Adam: They are unlikely to have taken the time and care to address the very points made by both of us previously about good services. These sites can have some value in increasing the visibility we talked about earlier but their model is about driving traffic not achieving influence.
If I have a site with 1m pieces of content and every one was of interest to one person searching in Google a month I would have manufactured 1m unique visitors – sounds impressive. But for the specific storyteller behind each of those releases its twelve readers to your release a year. Not quite so good.
Daryl: Free press releases wires are not entirely motivated by getting your release to work. They'll be making money on advertising. They just want content to attract traffic and generally don't like to include your embedded links and often leave out contact information. You may find adverts for competitive products appearing next to your release.
Some marketers have concerns about the duplication of press releases once published on a PRDS, i.e. a single press release gets published verbatim on many sites, resulting in a negative effect on their Google rankings. Are these genuine fears? If so, how do you deal with this issue?
Daryl: This issue crops up occasionally but does not seem to be a consistent one and Google itself argues that it is not a problem. Based on feedback from our customers, we don't think it's a major issue. However, concern about it does support the argument to stick to one or two respected wires rather than throwing your release up on a load of free press release wires.
Adam: This is looking at a news release from only one perspective – search. We are talking about public relations and though search is an important element of online PR it is only one of them. If your release is only of interest to automatic republishing sites, I would suggest that it probably wasn’t that interesting and issues around duplication should not be your main concern.
Hopefully your story is of interest to relevant media sites and ultimately your target communities in which case then the most value that will be produced will be through a combination of the influential coverage that you achieve and from a search perspective. These sites are more likely to have higher Google juice attached as they should be seen as authorities on a subject not just general content libraries.
Do you think that some people use PRDS to issue media releases that they know that they don't have a hope in hell of gaining any 'media' coverage on and are purely looking for visibility through search on keyphrases....is that sustainable?
Daryl: Oh yes, but less so now. Many of our SEO agency customers may have been guilty of that in the past but quickly realised that the best kind of press release, even if you're just driving traffic, is one that reads well.
Adam: I think this does occur though as Daryl says I think people are learning. In our case I think our price point discourages this to a very great extent but free sites in particular is where this is most likely to happen I suspect.
Some journalists are using search and social media to make direct connections with business owners, PRs, marketers and brands. Are there still genuine benefits for journalists signing up to receive releases from PRDS?
Daryl: Excellent question. What's fascinating about the impact of new media and social media on journalism is not only the way it is turning the media upside down, but how it is transforming the way journalists work. This interview is a case in point. I would have loved to use online chat to conduct interviews when I was a hack 14 years ago!
Yes, some journalists will choose not to get 'direct' press release feeds. Maybe the more tech-savvy ones will mashup their own RSS feeds from multiple sources. But many others like to ensure they're on the most important distribution lists – like ours – so they don't miss anything.
We are still adding email recipients to our wires on a regular basis. Many of our release go to 'newsdesk@' email addresses, which are basically aggregators for all sorts of incoming material. Either way, I don't care if a journalist finds one of our client's releases by searching for it, from an RSS feed, email.... or from our Twitter feed.
Adam: The scenario you paint isn’t limited to PRDS it’s one for the PR industry as a whole. Information is being disseminated in many different ways now as you say and we must all keep up. But ultimately what journalists, publishers and bloggers are looking for are relevant stories. If we can consistently deliver relevant content to them then yes there are genuine benefits. This is a challenge but one we are constantly working on.
Daryl makes a good point about delivery mechanisms. We are seeing an increasing number of receivers of our news going RSS as they no they can produce one tailored feed of content from us that takes account of all their preferences, industry, geographic and (as of today) language.
With so many global and local commercial press release distribution services and specialist services for most industry sectors. If you were announcing a new service, which free and commercial services would you choose and why?
Daryl: I think the choice of press release distribution service comes down to what's right for your business or client and brand. UK businesses, for example, should only use indigenous UK press release wires. Using US or 'global' wires may be tempting, but the results may not be that useful in terms of driving genuine traffic.
If there is a relevant specialist wire then you should use it. But you should also use a respected generalist wire as this can spread the net wider with often effective results.
Adam: I agree with Daryl's points. Free wise I have a lot of time for Pitchengine in the US. Though not strictly a distribution service I like what they have done to provide a tool that if you have the time and expertise it can help you create a quality release page that you can then use in conjunction with your own lists if you are doing this all yourself.
Paid-wise obviously I am biased and would say us, but if budget is a limiting factor I would definitely recommend Sourcewire and if you need help writing the release etc then Press Dispensary would be worth a look.
Finally, any practical advice or tips for creating press materials specifically for PRDS services
- Consider your title first and foremost as this is what will be seen the world over in subject headers, in Google listings and on Twitter and RSS feeds.
- Linked to title is keywords. Not just in SEO terms, but so people can quickly establish either visually or technologically that it could be relevant to them.
- Provide relevant and interesting multimedia content where at all possible to help to tell your story in the most engaging way
- Above all try make sure that you create interesting stories that people will want to talk about. It is much easier to add value to a good story than a poor one.
Daryl: I’d like to add to Adam’s tips
- Going further, once your release is out, use social media to create buzz. We of course include releases in our own dedicated Twitter feed but tweet it yourself, write a blog post with a more in-depth analysis of your release (link from the blog to the release and vice versa) and comment on online coverage when you get it.
- If your release doesn't seem to work very well it could be due to a number of factors – unlucky timing or getting swamped by other news is not uncommon. Sometimes it takes time for results to come through – I once got coverage two years after we issued a release!
- Don't give up, find another story and try again. Do it at least three times before making any judgments as to the value of the process.