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.
Response: 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.
Response: 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.
Response: 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
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.