Online Marketing Blog

A Press Release is NOT a PR Campaign

There’s a pretty common misconception (especially on the Web where press releases are booming) that one press release alone is supposed to bring massive exposure, traffic, and links. Well sorry folks. In the vast majority of cases, that’s just not how it works! There is a big difference between an press release and a PR campaign, especially online. When asked about how effective a press release really really is, I hear thee following kinds of things a lot, generally from people who issued their first press release without the results they were hoping for…

  • “Press releases don’t work.”
  • “Press releases only help big companies.”
  • “Press releases aren’t as good as [fill in the blank].”
  • Common Complaints About Press Releases

Here are a few common complaints I hear from people who aren’t happy with the results of their first press release (and how I tend to respond):

Complaint 1: It was too expensive.

Press Release Too ExpensiveResponse: I usually ask where they spent their money. Hands down, the biggest expense is distribution for most (often an upgrade package with a distribution site like PRweb). I then ask why they didn’t take advantage of free or inexpensive options, especially with their first release. It’s not uncommon for me to hear that so-and-so (their press release writer) told them they had to use one package or another to get results (usually the same kind of PR person who’s advocating the same distribution model for everyone – bad idea – or taking in affiliate income from the distribution source). So moving forward, I tell them to look into other, cheaper distribution options (as long as they still reach their target readers), and know the qualifications of whoever they’re working with.

Complaint 2: No one covered my story.

No Press Release Media CoverageResponse: Did you actually have something newsworthy to say? In many cases, the answer is no. (For example, launching a new website is very rarely newsworthy in and of itself.) Something else I ask is how long ago the release was distributed. Remarkably, most are complaining within a day or two of distribution because they’re not seeing pickups or backlinks. The reality is that those things can take a while to show up (especially if you’re tracking them yourself, as you’ll be at the mercy of the indexing schedule of search engines).

Complaint 3: My press release didn’t bring me much traffic.

Press Release No TrafficResponse: Let’s look at some common reasons you may not be getting traffic. Did you have any earth-shattering news that’s going to drive people to click over to your site in masses even though it’s your first release and they’ve likely never heard of you? Not likely. Did you have a well-written press release? It’s possible. But in this day and age we have everyone and their brother calling themselves a press release writer without any qualifications. Stick to hiring real professionals, or invest the time into learning how to write a press release for yourself. Last question… how did you distribute your news release? If you just threw it onto a distribution site or two (or two hundred for that matter), that explains a lot. Contrary to the belief of many, the average Joe just doesn’t search for their news from press releases. They have specific news sources they trust, and they go right to them. Did you do anything to target trusted news sources tied to your own target market? Chances are that you didn’t.

People need to understand something before they decide to jump into using press releases to promote their businesses or websites:

Press releases are just one tool, of many, in a larger PR campaign. On top of that, they’re a tool that needs to be used repeatedly over time in order to fully realize their potential (building awareness, maintaining an image, and overall exposure and name recognition). So don’t put all of your eggs into one basket by spending a small fortune on your first press release, because chances are that you will be disappointed with the results.

Always think about your long-term goals when using PR. Who are you trying to reach, what message are you trying to convey, and what tools can you use to get that message out to your audience? If you’re serious about using PR to help your business, you need to broaden your outlook a bit beyond news releases. Here are a few other examples of PR tools to include in your overall PR campaign:

  • Media Advisories – These are used to actually invite members of the media to an event to cover it in person.
  • Op-Eds – These are opinion pieces that run opposite an editorial in a newspaper or other publication.
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters

Figure out what types of tools are going to best reach your specific target audience(s), and then put together a solid PR plan using them to complement each other.

  1. Michigan SEO - Terry Reeves Says:
    January 8th, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    I have encountered more than one small business web site operator who thinks that Press Releases are the only means of marketing online.

  2. Angelo Fernando Says:
    January 9th, 2008 at 5:38 am

    Very good example of how the ‘push’ tactics aren’t the only way to get journalists interested in your story. The points you make remind me of the book “Press Releases are not a PR strategy.”

  3. Admission Essay Says:
    January 9th, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Well, certainly there are people who are willing to spend a bundle when launching their company. Heard from John Chow that the initial spike in traffic is most important during any company startup..

  4. Mario Bonilla Says:
    January 10th, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Jennifer, great post. As the platform trainer here at PRWeb I tell folks the same things. I joke that ” one press release thru PRweb will not make you rich and famous”.

  5. Jennifer Mattern Says:
    January 10th, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    @Terry – Unfortunately, I’d wager that most small online business owners and webmasters really don’t even know what PR is yet. So when they hear Internet marketers talking about the quick (poor quality) links, and the fast (temporary) traffic increases from posting a press release to a distribution site, it sounds like a miracle cure to their woes, doesn’t it? I don’t know how much time I’ve spent personally trying to teach people in that boat that there are more effective ways to get the traffic and links (whether going about “real” PR campaigns in the long haul or skipping press releases altogether when they’re just not a good fit).

    @Angelo – Thanks. I actually had just mentioned that book on a press release site of mine a while back. In my defense though, I’d picked the title and sent it off to Dave at Redfly a few months before I’d ever heard of the book. ;) It’s worth checking out though. :)

    @Mario – Unfortunately that’s what a lot expect. They have this ill-conceived notion that they’re going to become well-known overnight, and it just isn’t the case… it’s about building steady, positive exposure. PR is never a one-time thing.

  6. Marketing Blog Says:
    January 11th, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Unles your website is totally unique and going to be the next best thing i really do not see a point to press release`s. They just a waste of time in my opinion. Makes me laugh when you see people paying 100`s of dollars for a press release when there is far better ways to promote a website.

  7. Jodee Says:
    January 12th, 2008 at 2:05 am

    I think my comment has been lost in limbo!
    Anyhow it would be foolish to think a press release would provide more than a spark of interest.

  8. Jennifer Mattern Says:
    January 12th, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Honestly, what that comment tells me is that you don’t know a heck of a lot about PR – not surprising, since your handle implies you’re more involved with marketing.

    You don’t have to be the next big thing to run successful press release campaigns. That doesn’t mean you can send them willy nilly with no news at all either of course. I’ve had even small sites get pickups in real news outlets fairly easily on the Web without having earth-shattering news (published in places like,,, and to name a few). Press releases absolutely work as intended if you use them properly.

    The people paying hundreds of dollars aren’t doing that because they have to… they’re paying a “premium” for convenience, because their time is worth more elsewhere on an individual level than what they’re paying to have it handled for them, or because they don’t have the expertise to go it alone. For someone knowledgeable about PR, their audience and how to write an effective release on their own, they can actually do it without spending a dime.

  9. Tracy Says:
    January 16th, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I use the press release, but I am aware it is just a small piece of the marketing puzzle. There is no single magic bullet that will get you lots of attention. When I mix it up is when I see success.

  10. Linda VandeVrede Says:
    January 16th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Anything we can all collectively do to dispel the misconception clients have about press releases, the better. After receiving too many calls from prospective customers asking for a press release as a substitute for a PR program, I wrote “Press Releases Are Not a PR Strategy” in 2005. Even in this information age (or maybe because of it), companies and individuals still espouse publicity (which is one-way) instead of true public relations (which is two-way).

  11. Kevin McGrath Says:
    January 17th, 2008 at 10:11 am

    I agree, unless you have something newsworthy to say there are better ways to market yourself online. Some nice tips in there as well though.

  12. Vingold Says:
    January 18th, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    I used to work in print advertising a long time ago. I got this all the time when a client took an ad out for one day in a daily paper.

    I had to tell them – no on even sees it until it has run three times, and then it takes them three more times before they act on it.

    Press Releases are the same way. Often times if you send several over an extended period of time – you’ll find a reporter or researcher on the other end who is keeping them for source material until they have a story come up when they can use them.

  13. Christine Johnson Says:
    April 1st, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    PR are definitely something you need to be educated about in more ways than one. To just ‘have one’ because it ‘seems like that’s what you’re supposed to do’ is not a good enough reason to do it. Educate yourself of what the whole point in purpose is in having one and be professional enough to do it right. If you do it right and consistently enough (when there’s news worth noting) will be beneficial to you and not your downfall.

  14. Jessica Says:
    May 13th, 2008 at 4:36 am

    I used to write for an image consultant agency back when I was in college. They made me write countless press releases and had me call editors non-stop. These editors usually keep our press releases for times that they don’t have outputs so it’s a good idea to just keep sending them.

    Oh and yes, Press Releases do work. They just have to mature over time.

  15. Sinead Whelan Says:
    May 19th, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Of course they work, it would be like saying advertisement campaigns don’t work to say press releases are not effective at all!

  16. Mike Says:
    June 9th, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    A press release is one small piece of a very big puzzle. All advertising and marketing has to be setup to work together, PPC, SEO, Email Marketing, etc.

  17. Hunter Jackson Says:
    June 10th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    A press release will work if done correctly, but it should be just a small part of your online or print campaigns. Never put too many eggs in one basket.

  18. Xocai Ling Says:
    June 13th, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    ” Did you actually have something newsworthy to say? In many cases, the answer is no. (For example, launching a new website is very rarely newsworthy in and of itself.) Something else I ask is how long ago the release was distributed. Remarkably, most are complaining within a day or two of distribution because they’re not seeing pickups or backlinks.”

    A coworker just spend a couple hundred dollars on PRs to advertise his affiliate review site and was shocked when nobody picked it up after 3 weeks.

  19. rob Says:
    June 14th, 2008 at 2:22 am

    unfortunately, many see press releases as easy to do and hope for the best. as you pointed out, they can be part of a campaign, but are not enough by themselves.
    thanks for the tips

  20. SOHO Prospecting Says:
    June 30th, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Great post!
    The only comparison I would make is that both are not temporary projects and their results are not seen quickly like most of the customers think.

  21. Seo India Says:
    July 2nd, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Great post!
    Will help us a lot. :)

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  23. VestRite Says:
    July 8th, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Press Releases should not be used to generate PageRank. Each new page only has around .15 “PageRank points” and gives only a small fraction of that – which will get you no where. On top of that, your duplicate content links will be penalized. This is assuming that the press release allows links.

    Honestly, I’ve only used press releases once, submitted on 5 sites. I received no emails, so I canceled the offer. There just wasn’t enough demand for a cheap SEO analysis I guess. Should have done some keyword research before I advertised my grand idea.

    Lesson learned.

  24. Brad Says:
    October 21st, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I use press releases sparingly as they can be effective if used correctly. I think Jennifer hit a major point regarding the quality of the event surrounding the press release itself. I have one SEO client who thinks that I should be submitting one press release per week for his site/business. Unfortunately, that logic just reduces the overall effectiveness of press release campaigns for everyone. It’s a classic case where “more isn’t always better.”