by Milind Mody, eBrandz
It is widely believed that the first press release was issued over 100 years ago by Ivy Lee on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which had just suffered a tragic accident. The press release was issued to prevent alternate versions of the accident from being spread among the press. And, 100 years later the intent of a press release hasn't changed. It remains a valuable resource in any marketer's tool kit. But its importance in the Internet age and the world of search engine optimization has never been greater.
Top 5 reasons to write a Press Release
1) Organic Traffic: With their Universal Search protocol, Google has started showing press releases in organic search results. If your press release is well-optimized, it can rank for two to three days in Google organic results. The press release can also get traffic from Google News and other news aggregator websites.
2) Link Building: You can use your important keywords as anchor text and link them to relevant pages on your website. When the press release is distributed these links will be picked up by distribution partners. Links from many of these sites will not be counted, but some of them will.
3) Reputation Management: If someone has criticized your company, one sure way to get the criticism off the first page of Google Blog Search or Google search results is to issue multiple press releases. Of course, if you want to do a professional job, then you need to get external links to your press releases and bookmark and tag these releases.
4) Bloggers and Web 2.0 Audience: Many bloggers subscribe to online press release distribution services like PRWeb. If your press release interests them, they might blog about it and give a link to your press release or your website. If you consistently reach out to this audience, you can get significant links, traffic and sales from them.
5) Traffic from Traditional Media: If your press release interests journalists, they will follow up with you and write a story about your business. This will most certainly lead to a short term boost in your website traffic and sales.
Wire Services and an Online Distribution
Wire services distribute press releases to traditional media outlets like newspapers, magazines, radio stations and news agencies like Reuters and the Associated Press. If your main objective is to target journalists, then use a traditional wire service.
The other option is online distribution - targeted to journalists or bloggers who sign up to receive emails from a particular industry, category or sub-category. Popular news aggregator websites like Google News and Yahoo News are also targeted. Additionally, many bloggers subscribe to distribution and news feeds. Chances are one press release from a good online distribution service will get you multiple listings spread across Google News, Search and Blogsearch. For the widest reach, consider both wire services and online.
The difference in distribution methods can be summed up as push vs. pull. Wire services push press releases to media outlets, while consumers pull information from online services like PRWeb through email alerts and RSS feeds.
Press Release Basics
Most wire distribution services charge by blocks of 375 or 400 words. That includes title, a brief summary, body of the release and contact information. If the release is more than the word limit, you will be charged extra per 100 words. Images, video, documents or podcasts are also charged extra. But many online PR distribution sites do not have the typical 400 words limit. Image and document attachment is also commonly provided with the basic service.
Before turning loose your press release, decide where you will make the most impact. Wire distribution services classify a press release into:
1) National Release: Targets all national media outlets for a particular industry like Automotive, Consumer, Sports, Technology or Travel.
2) Regional Release: The four main regions are Northeast (includes New York and New Jersey), Southeast (includes Florida and Virginia), Midwest (includes Illinois and Ohio) and West/Southwest (includes California and Texas).
3) State and Local Release: New York State and New York Metro can be two different options. In general, New York-related distribution is expensive, because of the high number of media outlets in the region.
4) International Release: Again, there are many classifications and sub-classifications of an international release based on countries and/or continents.
Apart from the above categories, some wire services also target Hispanic, African-American and North American Chinese media outlets.
Keep in mind that you should draft and submit your press release two days in advance, because most wire services will call for a verbal confirmation before distributing.
With online services you can specify 5-10 industries to target. By default, the region is set to global but if your release applies to a specific city or region, you need to choose the appropriate setting. Any journalists or bloggers who have subscribed to releases for that region will then receive your release.
Now that you have decided what type of distribution service you will use and where you will target your audience, it's time for the most important part - creating effective, compelling press releases.
Seven Tips for Writing a Press Release
1) Unique Value Proposition: Instead of writing a press release for simply the launch of your product or service, create a press release around your unique value proposition. This should include those special attributes making your service better than the competition.
2) Avoid Hyperbole: Keep your language natural and tone conversational. Nothing is more counter-productive than a jargon-filled sales pitch. Report facts.
3) Optimize your Press Release for Search: Include your most important keywords in the press release title and first paragraph, but not at the cost of important information. Hyperlink important pages with suitable keywords as anchor text.
4) Create an Online Press Room: Because only limited information can be included in a press release, it's a good idea to create an "Online Press Room" on your website. It should list your media contact with an email address and direct phone number, contain a high-resolution logo of your company in various formats (JPEG, PSD, CDR) and high-resolution photos of key people in your organization. Point links to important products, case studies, client comments, press releases and media coverage. Provide a link to this page on all press releases.
5) Create Google and Yahoo Alerts: Create Google and Yahoo alerts with your company or individual name. This will help you see which websites are covering your press releases.
6) Decide your objective: If the primary objective of your press release is online reputation management, then you might want to go for a service like PRWeb. However, if you think there is an angle in your press release which can appeal to journalists, use a wire service that also has SEO options.
7) Use Stock Tickers: If your company is not publicly listed, but associated with a listed company (i.e. if the listed company is your client) you can ask their permission to include their stock ticker in your press release. This will help you get visibility across all journalists who will be searching for the listed company.
Press releases can be extremely valuable for both short- and long-term purposes. If you are not yet convinced or feel that you need some practice, start with a free service, then move on to professional service. However, a single press release will not give you much exposure. Try to write at least six press releases a year that will cover your unique value proposition, good customer experience, and awards and recognitions.
PR Newswire: PR Newswire is the biggest name in press release distribution service. It is also the most expensive. A 400-word national release can cost $680 and $185 for additional 100 words. A 400-word release with a photo will cost $1,325. Regional distribution will cost less. The national release includes SEO, but for other distribution options, add $255. If you don't want a national release, search for PR Newswire partners
like WebWire, which offers a 15 percent discount.
Business Wire: Business Wire was taken over by Warren Buffet's Hathaway Berkshire last year. In general, Business Wire costs 8-10 percent less than PR Newswire. Business Wire has partnered with Vocus/PRWeb which powers their Enhanced Online News Text optimization tool. Through PRWeb, Business Wire can produce SEO-friendly press releases while PRWeb can now provide traditional wire service to their clients.
Marketwire: A 400-word national release on Marketwire costs $460 with $150 extra for additional 100 words, less for regional and state/local distribution. Additional photos cost $50, SEO enhancement costs $75 and audio/video links cost $75 each. Customer service is good, making Marketwire is a nice option if you are price conscious.
PRWeb: PRWeb is not a wire service, but an email-based service. Journalists or bloggers who signup with PRWeb receive a daily email from PRWeb based on their preferences. The release is also distributed to other websites that subscribe to PRWeb feeds. The basic service at PRWeb starts at $80 per release. Their SEO visibility service starts at $200 and there is a podcast interview option for $100, where one of PRWeb's staff will conduct a four to five minute interview with you. This is a great option for business owners who want their press releases to stand out but don't have time or energy to produce their own podcast.
Free Distribution: Apart from these main services, there are some free online distribution services like openPR.com and PRLog.org. These websites are regularly crawled by Google News. But a word of caution: These free sites make money by displaying Google AdSense ads alongside your press release. It's entirely possible that your competitor's ads are shown alongside your press release!
About the Author: Milind Mody is founder CEO of SEO firm eBrandz Inc. Part of eBrandz's service performs search marketing for a division of United Business Media, parent company of PR Newswire.