Press Release Benefits
Press releases can be a key marketing element for a business because of the potential for free media coverage. But while you'll find most press release writers and companies promoting press releases as the marketing golden egg, it's important to understand the pros, cons, potentials, and real uses of press releases in your overall marketing mix.
As you may know, Americans tend to have a "quick fix" mentality. We pay the biggest bucks to baseball players who bat .270, hit 50 home runs a year, and set strike out records along the way. We pay less to the players hitting .350 and 12 home runs a year because they're somehow less exciting. But their consistency means the world to getting wins for the team.
Likewise, a lot of businesses love the idea of sending out a single press release, getting swarmed with media attention, and setting record profits overnight. While this scenario plays out from time to time, it's not the norm, and I don't advise investing in press releases with that single goal in mind. (Besides the fact that mass overnight sales have sunk more than one business.)
Press Release Benefits
There are several benefits to sending out press releases. For most businesses, this will NOT be national media recognition. A lot of businesses will pay for national distribution, not really acknowledging that the recognition they need is LOCAL. If you could land your press release in a local paper, or get a feature article written on you in a local paper as the result of a press release, or get a short interview on local radio, would that be a substantial benefit for your business?
If so, the good news is that you don't have to pay a dime for local distribution. If you're willing to check into local media outlets on their websites, you can get all the contact information you need and send your press release out to each local contact with their names and, if appropriate, even a brief note preceding the release. In this way, you have the opportunity to actually get to know your local media contacts over time, and you can become a go-to source for them when they're looking for quotes in your field of business. IF, of course, you have proven yourself to be a legitimate news source. This is why sending correctly written press releases is important.
On the other hand, you can use national online distribution to help with local results in the search engines. For instance, after that press release, someone local to you searches for "Your City and Your Business Type" and they find the press release about you ... which also links to your site. So this can be exceptionally valuable.
In a similar way, if people search locally for a product or service you provide, you could get search engine coverage for this. This is why, if you offer several products or services, it can be valuable to distribute press releases on a regular basis. They need to always have a news angle to them, but by doing so, you can get found locally for many of the things you offer.
If your business actually warrants a release to the national media, then this kind of online distribution -- when it reaches the big online news sources, media, and newswires -- can also help to get you the coverage you're looking for. But you face much tougher competition on this scale and aren't guaranteed the same kind of search engine coverage. (Though you'll often get it for a day or two.) And no matter how well written your press release, you may or may not get traditional media coverage.
Still, releasing real news on a regular basis is likely to help you achieve some of this coverage, and can be an important part of your marketing mix. (In part because if you score a unique story by the major media, the links to your website become very valuable -- much more so than the links embedded in the original press release -- because they're likely to be seen by so many more people.)
Press Release Consistency
Like any form of marketing, press releases work best when you use them consistently and build a relationship with the media. Not like a clingy, desperate person, but like a useful ally who's there to provide information that reporters want because their readers want it.
This is another reason why it's useful to put together your own database of local media contacts if that's all your business requires and to send them press releases on a somewhat regular basis if you can provide interesting news or stories. This makes for a very affordable part of your marketing efforts, even if you only get something published (or interviews on TV and radio) every few months. Remember, compare the cost (and the perceived legitimacy) of this over the cost (and perceived legitimacy) of paid ads.
This consistency is also important when you're using press releases to build up web traffic. Each press release will not only get its initial day in the sun when potentially thousands of people will read it, but it will also get archived and read in smaller numbers over time. So the more often you submit press releases through online newswires, the more web traffic you may build up over time. Just make sure they're well written so they reflect well on you and compel people to visit your website.
As I mentioned previously, frequent press releases also help you in terms of search engine coverage if you can tackle different areas of your business (products and services) while keeping a news angle in each one (rather than a sales pitch). This helps you to expand the types of searches you may be discovered for.
Press Releases as Part of a Marketing Mix
Again, however, I wouldn't recommend using press releases as your sole means of marketing, or expecting this to be the home run you're after. Instead, use them as part of a larger marketing mix. Developing content on your site that people link to, getting featured as an expert on some topic on a related blog, or writing a feature article for an industry magazine ... all of these are strong complements to press releases.
To some extent, paid ads can play alongside these as well, although advertorials (done right) play a more complementary role in the sense that they continue the effort to dominate editorial content. Teleconferences, public lectures, and even publishing books or booklets can further establish you as an industry expert to which the media and public will want to turn for information, products, and services.