Why Press Release Distribution Services are BAD
And you really don't need to use them if earned media is your goal. Learn why below.
Press release distribution services tend to promote and offer a lot in terms of media success. The trouble is - are they really as successful and useful as they make out to be?
So what I have done is gone over the claims that press release distributors make in terms of benefits and positives and provide context as to what you should really expect.
This article may appear to be an attack on a competing industry but the reality of it is, press release distribution services are just horrible for the industry. From a PR or communications perspective the press releases that get distributed taint the quality of real outreach and media relations.
Syndicated content is not coverage and does not provide a backlink either. It WILL be lost in the depths of pagination without ever passing on any ‘link-juice’.
There are no shortcuts to coverage and building relations so take the time to do it right.
Regardless of the fancy report they send over to you with fundamentally vanity metrics you will never understand what were the benefits.
In PR it's already incredibly difficult to find ROI when you get earned media coverage, so what you will get at best is a mix of metrics that shows you advertising value and potential sessions.
As much as you think it’s breaking news, you inevitably have a bias which is plain as day to see in the press release you sent out.
Most press releases do not get picked up because they seriously lack substance or a story to tell, it’s vital you understand your media contacts and what they expect (which can only be achieved through solid media relations).
Know your contacts, know what they have planned ahead, supply them with relevant news. Hey presto, you have coverage.
I feel that media relations should start to become a real focus for you, which is never going to happen with a distribution service.
It’s about as useful as a chocolate teapot. These days people feel weird cold calling, cold pitching and so on - why do you think that this approach will work with PR? A newswire is nothing more than a cold pitch.
Remember journalists are not sitting on their hands waiting for pitches to arrive, they have plenty to do in the meantime.
Once submitted the distribution provider will either review and provide feedback for improvement, or publish and post to their digest subscribers - hopefully, these are engaged reporters (highly unlikely but the website tells you otherwise, right?).
Remember that the other press releases in your industry have also been added to the digest.
Let us role play a little - if you get a digest newsletter, do you read the 50+ releases it contains? Do you even bother looking beyond the first 5 which already knocked the confidence of quality out of you?
This is called syndication. There’s no additional angles added to your press release by a reporter. No references to quotes or even additional thoughts for the article. It is literally a copy and paste of your press release directly onto a publishers ‘press releases’ section.
By doing this it can appear in news feeds and still profit from advertising in and around the release itself.
Within a few hours your press release is likely to be on page 2 and dropping quickly. That’s not enough time for a search engine to crawl the sitemap, register the page and rank it for anything meaningful.
Psst – see this compilation of really good press release examples to get inspired ->
Every function of a business now has analytics or some form of reporting to help make things run smoothly. But you can only really learn from data if it makes sense or even if it’s a useful set of data.
PR reports from a distribution campaign tend to be a little more ‘jazzed’ up due to the fact that they need to provide some tangible results. Getting a shiny report from a distribution service generally means you get some vanity metrics with little to no relevance to your KPIs or campaign goals.
Shiny report - check. KPIs - check. Any positive movements? No.
You will review the report and look to share it with your management team or co-workers to get some hype going. Once you take a cold hard look at the campaign, you will see a lack of 'real' coverage or KPI movements.
But it's low cost and it could help to prop up your PR activities while you wait for features or metrics to come alive. Even at this point, a distribution service is not worth the time or false hope they provide.
Now that we've covered why press release distribution services do not work, I want to throw some suggestions your way as an alternative.
First of all, to get earned media coverage you need to provide something that is, wait for it... newsworthy.
This is easy to talk about but in the field, it's a tough cookie to work with. Below are some 'newsworthy' examples that tend to get media coverage (these are generic so take the time to see which are suitable for your company).
Example: Embrace innovation with Wolf Gourmet toasters and blenders at e&s
This is the easiest of them all. Announcing a major product or service launch will generally speaking, find some coverage. Industry publishers tend to enjoy these types of stories, know that advertising space will be sold to you.
Something to remember even more so is that it needs to be unique. Or a competitive move against your market competitors.
Example: ŠKODA delivers 110,100 vehicles worldwide in November
From my own experience of outreach and gaining coverage, nothing has worked better than raw, unique and plentiful metrics. When combined into a visual representation of all those numbers that provides a story or insight you will notice more interest during outreach.
With data, PR campaigns try to create an interactive page on your site, provide raw data, infographics, and a write-up. Sounds like a lot? It is, but this is what gets coverage so start data-mining and planning ahead, reach out to media contacts early to give them a heads up too.
Example: Important milestone for Porsche's Formula E project
Does your company have any ongoing corporate social responsibility initiatives? Has the C-Suite finished off helping with a beach clean-up initiative? This is news worth sharing.
If the news is 'on-trend' or part of your company message then it has an increased chance of coverage. The story could be engaging, so remember to also share some insider tricks and tips with your stakeholders. This helps to make readers feel part of the company.
Now that you know what is 'newsworthy', I would like to show you some ‘hard’ pitch ideas. These are popular press release pitches which fall flat on coverage so it’s good to know these and why they do not work.
- New hires - only well-known industry figures need a pitch.
- Product updates - unless you are used by many, many people or have something groundbreaking for an industry that you are in.
- UI/UX updates - as above.
So you now have an understanding of what works, what doesn’t, how you should approach press release distribution and what you cannot expect from distribution services. Now the hard work begins. Keep at it, focus on your Why and explain this through effective media relations and storytelling.
Updated Nov 2022