Online Reputation Management Blog

The Death of the Press Release Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Death of the Press ReleaseTo borrow (quite liberally) from the inimitable Mark Twain, the death of the press release has been greatly exaggerated.   Press releases have historically been a key tool for attracting favorable media attention, shaping public perception, highlighting events or professional achievements and increasing brand awareness via media.

The first press release, authored by PR specialist Ivy Lee on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad, offered an account of a fatal train derailment that occurred on October 28, 1906.  As a form of damage control, Lee shared the press release was shared with journalists at the scene of the accident.  The press release was also published by the New York Times two days later, in its entirety.  How is that for influence?

The press release, as a tool for shaping public opinion and disseminating news, albeit with some spin, was born.

Fast forward nearly a century.  The Internet revolution disrupted nearly a century of public relations strategy and tactics by disaggregating news distribution from traditional print, radio and television media.  Today individuals and companies are empowered to share real-time news updates online via a company blog, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other social channels – sometimes to an even greater PR effect.

Amid persistent reports of falling newspaper circulation (and falling newspapers), declining TV news viewership, diminished radio reach, consolidation in the broadcast communications industry, pundits wondered aloud whether press releases were dead.  Even the Public Relations Society of America, representing 21,000 public relations and communications professionals across the United States, published an article last spring bemoaning the end of the press release.

Google also launched an assault on press releases and the presumption of weak content or over- optimization by SEO firms with the recent Panda 4.0 algorithm change on May 20, 2014.  Barry Schwartz, an SEO expert and Search Engine Land contributor, published a widely shared article asking whether Google was specifically targeting press release sites, noting that a number of well-known  premium press release distribution sites saw Google visibility drop between 60 and 70 percent after Panda 4.0.

With alternate channels for distribution of real-time news and announcements, declining visibility and widespread reports of the press release’s imminent demise, the question remains: Are press releases dead?

The answer is NO.

For small and midsize businesses, the press release is still the preferred and usually the only channel for garnering widespread coverage across a wide range of news sources, from print and broadcast media, trade journals, websites (including Yahoo!,, CNet News, Forbes & and social media.

Small businesses do need to have reasonable expectations about what to expect from a press release.

In the absence of significant breaking news, don’t expect the phone to be ringing off the hook with reporters looking to turn your press release into a news story.  However, many of our clients have successfully followed up a press release with targeted media outreach and parlayed the press release into future news coverage.

Targeted media outreach doesn’t mean a mass email indiscriminately sent to a list of journalists.  I’m talking about a phone call or a customized email to one reporter at a time, pitching story ideas about their company, client or competitors in real-time, using the press release as an introduction for a news story.

For larger companies, even those that have an in-house marketing/communications department or press liaison, access to PR firms and consultants and a rolodex of journalist contacts, the much-maligned press release is still relevant.  Larger companies publish a press release to garner near-certain same-day Google Page 1 media coverage.  The press release is also still a preferred format for highlighting new hires and industry-specific news that may not be of interest to a consumer or general interest news audience and serves as a multichannel complement to a broader corporate messaging initiative that may include advertising, social media marketing and other promotional activities.

And although the SEO value is diminished, third-party sites that republish the press release, in whole or in part, sometimes include “do follow” links even if the press release distribution site did not.

If press releases are still alive and relevant, are they worth the money?  Most press release distribution companies charge for base story distribution, and then charge additional for video, images, expanded reach to social media distribution channels and prominent journalists.  The average price for a premium press release ranges from $299 -$500 for 400-word press releases.

The price-value gap has left an opening for upstarts seeking to provide a better service at a lower price.  Qamar Zaman, founder and CEO of Submit Press Release 123, launched a low-price press release service starting at only $10.

“Using the concept of ‘frugal innovation’ we stripped out what’s not needed and added only what is essential for exposure and brand building, says Zaman, “leveraging high traffic web newswires, social media, video, and using the right terms and phrases to get the right reads, we packaged a product called KISS, which stands for ‘Keep it Simple for Searcher’ by identifying search intent on Twitter and helping businesses improve conversion (with their press release).”

By focusing on relevancy, reach and conversion, rather than relying on press releases as the primary medium for disseminating news, PR and communications professionals and business owners can benefit from some of the clear advantages of a press release for a reasonable price and steer clear from the “anything goes” free press release sites that proliferated until Google devalued these sites almost completely with the Panda and Penguin updates.

The modern press release may serve a somewhat different role in today’s communications playbook, but it’s still very much alive and kicking!

About Todd William

Foodie. Bruce Springsteen fan. Citizen of Red Sox Nation. Online reputation management strategist. Founder of Reputation Rhino. For more, follow us @reputationrhino

Speak Your Mind