It took me a lot of writing to arrive at the conclusion of this story: it's not worth the stress to continue to write press releases for clients when I can make a lot more money in other ways.
This year is the first year in many that I didn't renew my press release subscription at Vocus. I've written and sent press releases for a long time. I have even loved doing it, but my business focus has changed and it's tough to go back. For that reason I'm no longer taking most press release writing jobs.
Why did I decide to stop writing press releases? I have a tough time when I get a website or very little information and need to create something from almost nothing. I've always been better at riding waves than creating them (in a marketing sense). In my work now I only promote something if I think it will do well. It's tough to fake.
Then, the expectations are sometimes unrealistically high. Journalists are not waiting for certain types of stories and never will be. I can take your money and you get very little in return. Stories such as your company winning an award are usually great for social proof so you can tout it on your website or have it show up when someone googles your name. It builds credibility. That's a good reason to send a press release, but if your goal is to get an interview, it's a long shot.
SEO is Still a Realistic Goal for Press Releases
A press release is still effective for SEO (search engine optimization). However, some announcements aren't well suited for SEO because there is little search demand for the search phrase. Just like for regular press releases, you need to find an angle. For example, If you want to bill yourself as an “online dating expert” then that's a decent strategy for SEO. Journalists do searches to find people for stories they're working on and it's highly likely that they'd google “online dating expert” to find someone to interview.
Press Releases Can Still Be Effective at Selling
Press releases can also be an effective way to get new clients. I know this because I've gotten clients from people searching “press release writer”. However, you can achieve the same using a blog post). I wrote press releases about baseball games and other tickets. I optimized the press releases to reach people searching online for tickets to specific games or teams. The biggest complement I got is that the client thought I was excited about the game. I wasn't – I'm not a sports fan (but I love selling baseball tickets even today). After about six press release their customer service team started to get calls and sell tickets directly because of the press releases.
Press Releases Are Ideal for Hot Topics You Need to Act Fast On
Another effective use of press releases is that your story is very hot. It's timely. Let's say you don't have relationships with the media and your story needs to get out right away. For example, there's a national story about something that relates to you or your business and you have a local or unique angle on it. That's a great way to get press because people are talking about an issue and you're adding something valuable to the conversation. This is my favorite example.
Press Releases are Effective When Targeted to Local Journalists
Local media is also a better route than simply using a national wire like PR Newswire. I wrote a press release about seeing The Social Network movie with a bunch of Facebook friends to talk about how an online marketing company rented out a theater to show the movie free. It was a local Utah event so it made sense to target it to the Utah media. We encouraged people to bring their phones to the movie, created a hashtag, had giveaways and a lot of fun. It got covered beforehand on local media blogs and radio. There was a TV station there and I was interviewed on a local TV station after the movie. To me the most important result from the entire campaign was the relationships and goodwill it created with influencers.
For Utah press releases I use Utah News Source (which I now own – the previous owner moved out of state). At Utah News Source you write the press release and we get it to Utah-based media, including print, TV and radio. We also publish your press release on our website and share it on our Facebook page (some stories get upwards of 500 views). You can pay extra to have it promoted.
Are Ads More Effective than a Press Release?
Another reason not to write press releases is because sometimes you are better off creating an ad that is targeted to the audience you want to reach. I love Facebook ads for that. Want to reach homeowners because you're offering an incredible loan or special? Run Facebook ads or display ads.
Is Influencer Marketing a Better Fit?
Last of all, I've gotten so involved in influencer marketing that besides affiliate marketing, it's what I do most. By influencer marketing I mean partnering with bloggers (or Instagrammers, Facebook page owners or YouTubers) to create content about or promote your product. I especially love working with businesses based in Utah to promote an event or activity in Utah. That includes restaurant grand openings, museums, exhibits, destinations, etc.
A supplement company wanted to work with me on a blogging campaign. After not feeling confident about how effective that might be, I recommended that they run Facebook ads instead. I see the ads in my feed regularly so I know they followed my advice. The thing is I don't want to fail. You don't want to either. It's better to say no and not regret it if I'm confident it's not a good fit. Sometimes I don't know until I test or try though. Each business and product is unique and there are too many factors. This is why no one in the industry promises an ROI. There are way too many factors out of our control. Instead you get high quality content, social media shares and exposure to an influencer's audience. If it's a cold audience and not a very good fit, then it may not result in direct sales. It may just warm them up.
With influencer marketing you will get a story. I can guarantee that because we're paying (and labeled as a sponsored post). Also, unlike the media you get the writer's opinion and unique perspective. You get the graphic and the images of your product. The catch is it's got to be a good product that they will love. It has to be done right. Send a blogger a poorly packaged item or if they are lukewarm about it and you probably won't be happy with the outcome. Get it right and we'll all be very happy. I've started to poll my network before taking a new client because sometimes they think of angles or are more excited about something than I expect.
My favorite influencer marketing campaign has an affiliate marketing component. One from last year still earns several bloggers $1,000 per month or more (me too). As an influencer I sometimes drive as many or more sales than the bloggers I work with. I may not have the highest numbers because I don't blog as regularly and my blog is a business blog, but I'm well networked.
So before you decide to write a press release think about what you want to accomplish and consider your budget. A press release might be just what you need or another approach might be better. Whatever you decide, don't hire me to write your press release (though I'll be happy to send it through a wire service for you).