6.9 Marketing by Press Releases

Press releases are an admirable way of getting a business site known, and are commonly issued to announce:

1. Launch of a website or service.
2. New relationship with another business.
3. Good news or financial results.
4. Appointment of a senior executive.
5. Important market research findings.

All news is grist to the business mill, and correspondents rely on a steady supply. Distribution is handled by a news bureau, but the companies either write the copy themselves or (generally) employ professionals.

DIY Press Releases

Press releases are written to a standard format:

1. Title: as with the newspaper headline, the intention is to grab the reader's attention.
2. Summary: two or three sentences that stress the importance of the release.
3. Body: two paragraphs giving the details, with individuals quoted.
4. Company information: what the company is and does, location, when founded, etc.
5. Contact information: phone, fax, email, company URL, and name(s) of personnel who can be contacted for more information.

Editors want news, not company hype, and companies will be more successful if their piece is topical and includes leads to matters of current concern. Proofing is the company's responsibility, not the press bureau's.

Hiring a Pro

Press releases are not difficult, but professionals are always happier working with other professionals. Whatever companies write, therefore, it'll probably be given a final polishing if an advertising agency handles the promotion. Companies need to accept the situation, but make sure the facts are right.

Getting the News Out

Email and the Internet has greatly assisted the dissemination of business news, but the principles remain the same: the press release needs to land promptly on the desks of the relevant journalists and editors. First and foremost, the piece must be relevant to the business publication, and interesting to its readers. Large companies have their own press officers, who keep up contacts in the business world. Smaller companies will also email their piece to editors of likely websites and magazines, but make more use of news bureaus, which email the piece to hundreds, if not thousands, of journalists worldwide. Companies should be aware that:

1. They must check with journalists and editors (phone or slowmail) before emailing that they accept press releases.
2. Results take time: they may have to resubmit.
3. Releases should be brief and to the point: more information will be asked for.
4. Facts and figures should be kept at hand for subsequent phone calls.

Evolving Picture

Press releases today are less aimed at trade and consumer media outlets, and more at providing solid company information to savvy journalists and customers. According to 2005 surveys by Middleberg/Ross and the Pew Internet Project, 98% of journalists go online daily to:

1. Conduct article research. (92%)
2. Find new sources and experts. (76%)
3. Find press releases. (73%)

The trends are reflected in the larger news bureaus. PR Web sends out 60,000-100,000 press release emails daily, and its web-related sites are among the top 2,500 most visited. PR Newswire reaches 22,000 media points in the US, and its articles are archived in over 3,600 web sites, databases and online services.

Press releases can be very effective. Marketing Experiments spent $990 on 7 press releases to generate 3,000 visitors — which compares favorably with ppc charges. The press releases also generated 6 interviews and increased their incoming links from 2,500 to 12,500.

Questions

1. What are press releases used for?
2. What is the standard format for a press release?
3. When would you disseminate the press release yourself, and when employ professional bureaus?
4. Prepare a costed comparison of a popular press bureau service and a DIY approach.

Sources and Further Reading

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