More than 12,000 times every month How to Write a Press Release is searched on Google, delivering more than 49 million search results. Is that the right question to ask? What about “are press releases effective?” That will yield more than 484 million results for you.
This isn’t one of those “the press release is dead” posts, because I personally don’t think they will die anytime soon. It’s just one tool of many we have to choose from today for communicating with audiences.
Off the top of my head, I can think of three great uses for press releases today:
- Strong news with broad interest – if you have a strong human interest story for broad consumption, a press release is still highly-effective for generating national coverage. I came across a company the other day that has invented a way to diagnose breast cancer from human tears – that’s a story I could see working well in a press release form.
- Direct-to-consumer news – some organizations are using press releases effectively for communicating directly to their audiences. There are some instances where you don’t need publicity coverage, but rather want to announce something to people following your organization. While a blog might be a better vehicle for this, a second option would be a direct-to-consumer news release – a grand opening or product launch are both good examples.
- SEO-PR – a release designed to help you increase the number of inbound links to a particular page on your website or blog. This approach is not as effective as it used to be, but for an organization just starting out with a new website, this is one of the fastest ways to kick-start an SEO effort.
Alternatives to Press Releases
While there is still value in the press release as a PR or online marketing tactic, there are more effective options for communicating with external audiences. For starters, your blog should be the new place you break news. Look at how organizations like Google or Twitter announce new products or major company announcements – they post to their blogs. Google doesn’t formally issue any press releases. They don’t need to, their audiences subscribe to their blogs.
Blogs are very effective platforms for announcing your news, because they come with built-in analytics and sharing capabilities most traditional news releases don’t (at least not for free). Once you post to your blog, people can easily link to, share, or comment on your post instantly. This is the fastest option for getting your announcement into the hands of people most likely to pass the word along. You’ll also have access to real-time information on your reach through any standard Web analytics package, such as Google analytics.
Only Big Organizations Can Get Away With This, Right?
Sure, if you’re Google or Twitter you can get your news out the door without a press release, because everyone is waiting for it. What if you’re a small organization? The same advice holds true. I know from firsthand experience. When we recently announced ExpertTweet, our free Twitter expert-finding service, we used this blog, Twitter and a press release issued through PRWeb to get the word out. All the coverage we generated for the announcement came from those reading our blog posts and tweets.
No publicity came as a direct result of our press release. There are several organizations I’m familiar with that rely heavily on their blogs and social media to release news these days – because it works better and faster than press releases.
What does the rest of the industry think? A recent poll conducted by Ragan Communications and PollStream found that 49% of today’s professional communicators think press releases are “as useful as ever,” but a third of respondents admit the press release is “a necessary evil that won’t go away soon.”
There have been several studies done in recent years that support the diminished effectiveness of press releases, but as always, it depends on the quality and relevance of information communicated in press release form. If your story stinks, it’s not going to get attention in press release or tweet form.
Where Do We Go From Here?
If you’re one of those organizations writing and distributing press releases because it’s the way you’ve always done things, maybe it’s time for you to evaluate your approach. Could you leverage your blog or other social media more effectively to reach your audience? If you’re one of the thousands of people searching for “how to write a press release” each month, maybe you should spend your time searching for how to setup and manage your company blog more effectively?
Do you still rely on press releases for all your news? How effective are press releases for generating publicity coverage? Are you using blogs and other social media with greater frequency? Share your thoughts.
(Image Credit: Writing Effective News Releases / Amazon.com)