Even experienced PR people fumble, on occasion, with press release distribution services.
The humble press release was once a factual information sheet, and trainee PRs would be stood by the photocopier and licking and sticking envelopes as part of their apprenticeship.
Today it’s a much more contentious piece of literature, treading a fine line between spam, content and useful information sheet. And if the release itself requires a lot of thought, so too does the distribution method. Probably more, in reality, than the release itself, since the average blogger or journalist is more than capable of lifting the information appropriate to them and building on it.
Services fall into several broad categories.
Push services offer distribution to named individuals, usually journalists and bloggers. Some simply offer data, some will send the release for you – usually email. Familiar names might include Gorkana or Cision. Some more specialist services, like Press Dispensary, will tailor that distribution.
Due to increasing volumes of irrelevant material, many writers have now asked for their details to be removed from the more generic services. But they do make a good start point for identifying who might be interested in a release, and used carefully can make a good start point for releases, particularly when simultaneous release is needed (think market sensitive information or planned surprises).
Pull services deliver information to people who have asked to receive information on certain key subjects. Personally I’ve found Sourcewire quite good for certain sectors on this front. But it’s not failsafe.
Pull services also include wire services and news agencies, which sell appropriate information to recipients – think Reuters or Business Wire, for example. Because of the cost to use them, and the fact that they check information prior to release, the information tends to be higher quality – although there are always exceptions - meaning take up by good media outlets can be higher.
Within the pull category, there are an increasing number of agencies, like Technology4Media, that only work with specific categories of media. These work well for pick up on niche stories – the ones that the general public would probably pass on, but which enthusiasts or specialists will love.
Specialist online services like Realwire are sprouting up all over the place. The better ones are worth a look. My experience has been that they each work better in certain sectors.
There’s a whole plethora of free press release services emerging, which often charge for additional services like adding links, or have no apparent financial model (which means you can probably guarantee they’re doctoring your release with dodgy links later).
I’ve personally yet to find a really good one of these services, and it’s nigh on impossible to guess where the releases are going to. Vitis PR recently ran a survey on free press release services. Their methodology wasn’t perfect, but as with many things in life, it concludes you get what you pay for – if a few pounds/ dollars for a low grade link is what you’re after, I guess they have their place.
If the purpose of your release is good quality ‘coverage’ (plus links) with decent bloggers and journalists, most good services offer up enough information for you to check what kinds of things are on a journalist or blogger’s normal beat. We all make the occasional mistake, but really, there’s no excuse for not researching, no matter what service you’re using. Some bloggers are happy to get releases to keep them up to date, some see press releases as a form of manipulation. You’ll be working with your client long enough to justify spending some time familiarising yourself with their media.
So how do you decide where and how to distribute? If there was a simple answer, we’d all be piling in.
My partner in crime at SEO PR Training, Nichola Stott, and I are currently working on a guide to the individual press release distribution services, and the process of creating it highlighted the crux of the matter. The best service to use is the one from which the medium you’d most like to be in is happy to receive information. But, of course, publishing that information is going to lead to a rash of spam for them, killing their usefulness.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but nothing beats a good relationship, which means investing time and research effort. But if you’re going to put out releases, this would be my rule of thumb:
Push services offer a great point to start from in finding the right places to send releases to relevant media. Don’t fall foul of data rules and treat recipients with respect. Personalise where possible.
Pull services can offer great value where you’re working in sectors just once that you don’t know well.
The better on line services work well for generic online coverage, but don’t expect those ‘Hollywood links’.
Below you can find a questionnaire which is for feedback when people have used a service, if you want to help, fill it in!