One of the major factors that makes press releases so unique is that they’re a form of writing that isn’t directed at consumers – instead, your target for a press release is journalists. It’s a concept dating back to the early 1900s, when Ivy Lee (who had an advertising agency working with the Pennsylvania Railroad at the time) created the format as a way of generating open and honest communication between his client and members of the media.
In recent years, the Internet has made both the creation and distribution of press releases astoundingly simple. You write a release, you submit it to a service like PR Web or Business Wire and it gets sent out into the world to an army of journalists waiting to cover your story.
Or Does It?
There are a number of misconceptions about modern day press release distribution that, when cleared up, will give you a much better idea of the shape that “open and honest communication” takes in 2017 and beyond.
The Journey of the Press Release
Once you’ve created your press release, there are a few major distribution services for you to choose from depending on your needs. Two of the most popular today are Business Wire and PR Web, both of which offer their own unique advantages over the other. Business Wire, for example, gives you a choice of over 500 different distribution options – ranging from local newspapers and trade magazines to those that are globally distributed – in both online and in print.
PR Web, as its name suggests, is geared towards online distribution. It includes a network of over 30,000 different bloggers and journalists and could potentially see your press release (or a story containing the information from your press release) viewed thousands of times across a multitude of different websites.
What You Need to Know
The most important thing to understand about ANY press release service in the modern era is that none of them guarantee exposure – they only guarantee distribution, not awareness, customers or readers. Just because Business Wire says that your website is available to a network of thousands of journalists spread out across print and online channels does not mean that any of them will actually cover the topic you’re trying to create awareness of. Business Wire only promises exactly that – distribution. You are paying for the POTENTIAL that a journalist might see your press release and choose to cover it for their particular publication. Nothing more, nothing less.
The same is true of something like PR Web. Just because your press release is available to a network of over 30,000 different bloggers and websites doesn’t mean it will appear in 30,000 places. Nobody can explicitly force a trade magazine to cover a story (at least, not like this). You are simply making it easier for them to do so should they decide that is in the best interests of their readers.
Obviously, this does have its advantages. If your press release is sufficiently newsworthy or is on a topic that a particular audience’s publication is interested in, making it available on a service like Business Wire is a great way to instantly make that press release available to more people than you could ever hope to do so on your own.
However, even Business Wire itself recommends that you continue to work on generating interest in your release even after you turn it over to them. They will not conduct media calls on your behalf, for example – though they will provide you with a list of people who have either received or downloaded your press release so that you can make those calls on your own.
Business Wire in particular also does not share your press release on social media sites – they provide you the ability to do so yourself and even recommend that you share your own news releases in “appropriate social media contexts.”