Wow, I started the draft for this post four years ago and probably thought about writing it a few years before that…
Maybe I just keep thinking that the question will go away…but it hasn’t.
It amazes me that I still get asked so often about press release distribution. Sometimes that’s refreshing because prospects want to be certain that we are not just writing a worthless press release and putting it on “the wire.” But at the same time it’s sad because obviously that is all some firms seem to do. So, I am finishing this post today, so I can just send them all a link to bust the PR distribution myths.
Should you pay for PR distribution?
The simple answer is NO!
I guess there are a few instances that it makes sense (see those below). But I am going to start with the myths around PR distribution and bust em’.
PR Distribution Myth Buster
1. Using distribution will get my press release on a bunch of media websites and create a bunch of links and links are good for SEO.
Yes, media links are good for SEO. But press releases sent via PR Distribution services do not get you real media links.
It does not help SEO, it hasn’t for a long time (in fact I think the first time I thought about writing this post was while attending SMX Advanced in 2013?). According to Google, PR Distribution Services do not provide “real” links.
Here’s an example
**note: this is a completely random example, I went to PRWeb’s news section and went to the 100th page of releases to get a release that has been “distributed” for a couple of weeks.**
Ovation Hair is (was) doing a Valentine’s Day promotion. Part (hopefully not all) of their promotion includes a press release about it via PRWeb. I can’t say it is a very good press release, but they paid for distribution so at the very least it will go to lots of “media” websites and “journalists” right?
Let’s take a look at the Google SERP for the title of the release (we will do an exact match search to see who picked it up verbatim):
Ok, 157 results, that’s not bad, maybe it is worth it. Let’s analyze a few of the top results:
- Markets Insider – repost of the press release without links on a subdomain. High authority site, even the subdomain, but no links and you can’t find it on a site search.
- Vector News – repost of part of the press release without links on an irrelevant European site.
- News Break – seems good, it is a snippet of the press release that was posted on Houston Chronicle. That a real media news site, this seems promising…
- Let’s analyze this one as it is a classic distribution hit. Do a site search on Chron.com for “Ovation Hair” and that hit should come up, right? Nope sorry, the only result is for an Ovations Hair Studio from 2008. Even though it looks like it is on Chron.com, it really isn’t and no one will find it.
- Christabelles Closet – huh? this doesn’t make sense…ahh, I see this site likes to repost Cision/PRWeb press releases. The Hair Ovation release isn’t even listed any longer.
I could go on…none of these are media hits. So let’s go search in Google News to see if we can find some real stories about it:
No luck, but a story wouldn’t use the exact title of the press release right, so let’s change the Google News search to “Ovation Hair” Valentine’s Day:
Nope. I don’t think that is a story about their Valentine’s Day promotion.
Here is what you do get…you may get a bunch of nofollow links on subdomains that have zero value. The links may show up on Google if you search for the topic of the press release (which no one but you would do), but that “story” that shows up in Google, it won’t even show up on a site search on the website it appears to be on because it is most likely on a subdomain (and remember, not only does Google show results based on the value of the page not the domain (pages rank for keywords, not sites), but subdomains are valued separately as well).
2. PRWeb (or Newswire, BusinessWire, etc.) will get my press release in front of 10,000 journalists.
It may go to 10,000 “journalist” emails or 10,000 junk folders or 10,000 deleted email spam graveyards. It is basically seen as spam and will be ignored by 99.9% of those journalists. They don’t want to see your mass press release.
Ok, but I only need like a .2% conversion rate and if I send a press release to 10,000 people, I’ll get 20 stories.
- Nope, you are way more likely to get no stories and you may even annoy that reporter for when you have a real story for them.
3. Writing a press release is PR, so we have to send it somewhere
PR is so much more than writing and sending a press release (here’s a press release template if you need help), but the act of organizing your information into a good press release can really help flush out the story or media hook. If your marketing department or agency partner is only writing and distributing press releases (or even if this is one of the major strategies) you are doing it wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should never write a press release. Press Releases are not PR on their own, but they certainly still have a purpose in some situations. I am saying that PR distribution is not a PR strategy and you should think hard about what you are accomplishing by doing it. There is a time and a place to use a press release, listen to When to Use a Press Release on PR Talk for more on this.
You said there are a few instances when you should use distribution?
90% (or probably more like 99% for most people/companies) of the time you DO NOT NEED TO PUT YOUR PRESS RELEASE ON “THE WIRE.” But there are a select few instances that using distribution could be a good tool. Here they are:
You are required to make the news public for SEC (or other entity) requirements. Yep, this is a thing although a spammy press release distribution to a large list via Cision will do the job as well and you only have to pay the person/agency to do it (if you have a list and/or subscription) and not the fee.
You have really BIG news that may actually get picked up. This one is kind of tough because if your news is big enough you shouldn’t need PR distribution…but it may work if the news is big enough…catch 22
Your client or boss or whoever thinks that a bunch of links that look like they are from real media sites are important. **note that this is sarcasm. if this is your reasoning you should be fired.
You have partners that expect you to put it on BusinessWire (e.g. investors, shareholders, etc.). I get that we can’t unteach years of putting it on the wire in one blog post. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
PR Distribution Vendors Compared
The other question I get is if you need to use distribution which one should I use? Paid or free?…and like most things in life, it depends. So, if you must use distribution here is a quick cheat sheet of the major “service providers:”
Cost: Min $825 for National Distribution (plus setup fees)
Owned by major PR services company Cision PR Newswire is arguably the best-known distribution service. PRNewswire has national ($825+), regional ($475+) and statewide ($355+) pricing. Specific targets (e.g. multicultural, Native American, African American, Hispanic markets, etc.) can be added.
Cost: Starts at $250-$675 (plus setup fees)
Similar to PRNewswire in that you can target specific Cities/Metros ($210+), States ($225+), Regional ($250+) and Nationwide ($675). As well as Global ($3,725+) and specific regions such as North America, Latin America and Asia-Pacific.
Cost: Starts at $99
Also owned by Cision, PRWeb touts getting your press release on search engines (basic), plus media partner websites (standard at $189), to influencers (advanced at $289) and via Twitter and blog networks (premium at $389).
Cost: Starts at $135
Similar to PRWeb, it provides “distribution” at a lower cost than PRNewswire and Business Wire.
Free to search engines, discounted to news website and journalists
With a free account, you may distribute press releases and submit job postings. There are also paid packages with monthly and per press release pricing.
“Celebrating over ten years (2005-2015) serving the news distribution market.” It’s 2020…not sure I’d have much faith in this one?
Free version that is live for 90 days on Online PR Media…
Ask PR people if they get stories picked up from using PR distribution and your likely answer is an emphatic “NO,” or maybe a more subtle “I doubt it, but you never know.” So why are they still in business?