Marketing takes a day to learn. Unfortunately it takes a lifetime to master.
– Philip Kotler
At Genuitec, we issue press releases pretty regularly, but I never really gave much thought to “why” we do it. However, recently I received an email from one of our smaller business partners that read something like this:
I noticed that you rely heavily on press releases and I’m thinking of issuing one for our new product. Obviously, there will be some costs involved (for creating the PR and for the distribution). I’ll be happy to hear your insights on this. Do you think PRs are still worth the expense?
As a blanket statement press releases still have a great impact, but I will temper that with the caveat that you will likely need to have a goal in mind. A release for the sake of one may backfire on you. But, I can tell you from our experiences that press releases have had the following positive benefits:
1) It focuses our own thoughts. Many times, especially in technological circles, we tend to inherently know why something we’re doing is valuable, but we’re not always so great about talking it up in common ways that others will easily understand. The process of writing the press release helps greatly with this and forces us to focus our energies and simplify our messages.
2) It provides positive search engine optimization abilities. Google indexes press releases very well (they love text, after all), and the addition of a well-written press release with some thoughtful anchor text can provide valuable links back to our product from what search engines see as quality “external” sites.
3) They provide easy fodder for the press, if you are in contact with journalists. This is perhaps the most commonly-thought of way to use press releases, but is worth mentioning. If you have any contact with the press (or want to), these are great ways to send your pertinent information in an easily-consumed format. Journalists get press releases all day, so if your stands out, it makes a nice little “package” of information that can be referenced. If it goes further into an interview or some sort of verbal interaction, the fact that you’ve prepared the press release and gotten your thoughts together will make you that much more effective in that setting.
4) They are often republished by bloggers or other news sites. There are lots of technical sites and private blogs that want to be seen as authorities on the latest technologies. We have seen that many times a press release will be republished on these sites – often a verbatim republishing of our releases along with the anchor text we used. These provide more valuable SEO points, as well as broadly disseminate our information – all at no cost.
5) They’re relatively cheap. We currently use the PRWeb service, and have found it more than satisfactory. You can spend up to USD$200 or more for some broader SEO options (like anchor texting), or as little as $80 for simple distribution on the wires to get the word out. We do both, depending on the relative importance of the release and how much we want to get out of it.
6) They are great supports of other marketing initiatives. The press releases we put out are in no way “advertising in a vacuum.” Will putting out a press release by itself drive a ton of traffic and boost sales overnight? It’s very unlikely. But, if you are posting on social media sites, in forums and on popular technical sites, your message will be seen in many places. Then, if people are looking for information a press release is expected. It can add legitimacy to your message, as sometimes individuals are looking to see who or what is behind the announcements and would expect to see some “official” note on a product release. We have tried to not underestimate the value of “being seen where you’re expected to be seen.” In our case, this includes full press announcements.
7) They are easily republished on a huge list of FREE press release sites. I would shy away from using these exclusively and go with a professional service for the announcement. But, for SEO, exposure and syndication reasons, we often re-post our announcements to these sites as well.
The downsides of doing a press release are really the hard and soft costs involved. As you say, you will have some time investment in writing the press release, and then the distribution cost. Do you plan to write the release yourself or outsource? If you outsource, I would spend very little on getting a draft and then cleaning it up yourself. If you do it yourself end-to-end, your costs should be mostly soft.
In short, I believe press releases are still worth the expense of putting them out for all the reasons I listed. These days, they used more for exposure and SEO than they are for “press.” But as stated, they can help you consolidate your thoughts, keep yourself in the journalists’ view and easily come back to you in SEO value.