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Why Press Releases Are Worthless (Use Them for PR These 3 Ways)

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Why Press Releases Are Worthless (Use Them for PR These 3 Ways) Press releases are one of the most important tools in your publicity kit. Nine out of 10 journalists hate press releases because most are so poorly written.

Truth is, journalists rely on releases to let them know what is happening. But that’s not the main reason press releases are important. Today, we write press releases primarily to reach consumers directly online and bypass the media. Consumers can find the releases through the search engines. They can read the release, click through to our website and read an article, see an online catalog, watch a video, Like a Facebook page, join a LinkedIn group, or buy something.

So even if journalists think the release isn’t worth their time and attention, it might attract the attention of consumers.

Surveys have shown that journalists spend only five seconds reading a release before deciding whether to use it or toss it. If the press release is written specifically for the media, it must be compelling, interesting and—mostly important—newsy.

If you’re writing your press release primarily for consumers, it doesn’t necessarily have to include news. For example, you can write press releases even when you have no news to announce. Here are three examples:

–One common press release format is a list of tips on how to solve a specific problem: fix a leaking toilet or save money for you child’s college education or keep your computer from crashing. At the end of the release, there’s a call to action that tells the reader to do something specific: click on a link and go to a website to read more tips. Or opt into an email newsletter. Or give an email address in exchange for a downloadable special report.

–Another press release example is the CEO of a company making a prediction about something that will happen within his or her industry. The release might include statistics, or the results of a survey the company has taken.

–A press release template you see often involves a simple question-and-answer format. It includes five answers to five different questions. There’s no news, per se, but the topic will be of interest to anyone who is struggling with that problem, and perhaps using Google to search for solutions.

If you want publicity, the best way to get it is with a customized pitch to the journalist, blogger, freelance writer, columnist or broadcaster. Use a press release as collateral material and offer it if the media outlet is interested in your story.

There are three main reasons to use press releases in a PR campaign:

First, to reach consumers directly. You just might write a release that no media people are interested in. But if it includes the right keywords and a strong call to action, it might pull traffic to your website from consumers.

Second, to send routine news to the media. You might write a press release about a new hire, a promotion, an award, a contest you’re sponsoring, a new contract, or a new product or service you’re introducing. That release probably won’t result in a major story, but you might get a three-inch item in the back of your local business journal. (Subscribe to “The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week” newsletter at and receive free the cheat sheet “89 Reasons to Write a Press Release.”)

Third, as background material. If you’re pitching a journalist and they like the pitch, they might ask to see the press release which will have more details than what you explained in the pitch. You can also post press releases in your online pressroom and printed media kit, also known as a press kit.
If you use press releases correctly, you can save yourself a lot of time, aggravation, frustration and money.

Press release distribution services aren’t cheap, so don’t use them for routine news. Save your money for when you have major news. These services typically cost around $300 to distribute a press release.

As for free press release distribution services, do they really work? You get what you pay for. These services usually don’t distribute anything. They simply park your press release at their website and use it as content so they can include Google pay-per-click ads on that page and make money when someone visiting their website clicks.

There are two other problems with these services:

–A pay-per-click ad on the page where your press release is located might be from one of your competitors!

–If your press release includes an error, it’s almost impossible to contact anyone at the website and get it corrected.

Then there’s the issue of whether to follow up after you send a press release. I recommend you follow up, but follow up correctly. Here’s how: Craft a clever pitch that gives you a reason to call. When you call, suggest a different angle that media outlet might take—something that appeals to that particular audience. That might get the journalist’s attention–and get you the story!

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