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Free press releases services — are they really worth it?

Articler provides analysis and comparison of free news release distribution services, copywriters and publicists work and PR return on investment.

This one just caught my eye and it hit one of my hot buttons.   

Some one on one of the discussion groups I participate in wrote:       Also, the company I formerly used for free press releases began charging for all releases this year.  Does anyone know of any other alternatives that are still free?   (I have doubts that press releases are worth paying $150 for….).

I know it’s just my opinion, but I’ve been doing publicity for authors and publishing companies so long that it’s still boggles my mind to see people who think that free is as good as fee.   To me it’s like is there a difference between a five dollar latte and a $1.25 cent cup from the cappuccino machine at the highway convenience store?  

Oh I know and have kept an eye on the wonderful stories people write about the “New PR”, but I also follow what happens to the majority of people who use these services and talk with many a client about what happens to them.   I believe it’s very important to learn how the free services work and to know the differences between free online service and a more realistic active publicity outreach.    Free news release services are basically just archive websites where you place a text page of information.  They may have a headline and meta tags and they may be searchable from certain types of search engines, like the news search engines, at least for a while.    The real distinction is that the news release is not delivered to target media people for their evaluation directly.  Media have to search and find the content.  They generally do this only if they are actively researching in the first place.   Then once they digest it, they still get to decide whether it’s good enough to use. This is a very passive way to get publicity and if this is all you do, then you may be waiting a long time.    

Yes there are exceptions,

 

For example, Timothy Sykes, the author of An American Hedge Fund, posted his news release to PR Web for $120 and got interviewed within a few hours by a few Market Watch style online media.  It shows that there are certain fields where journalists watch the free news services like hawks for hot breaking news and unusual items particularly from interesting people.  To get a valid and realistic evaluation by media you have to present your very best ideas and then make sure you’ve done your best to get the message to the right media people. You really need to be quite aggressive and active when you do a news release campaign.  Sending it to nothing but free posting services is simply not the same as doing a real publicity campaign.   

You’re basically failing to get in direct contact with media who might be interested in what you have to offer.   I have to assume that YOU’VE WRITTEN A REALLY GOOD BOOK.  Without this, it won’t matter what you do since people know it when they see it.    With that in hand, a real outreach first requires you first write a REALLY GOOD NEWS RELEASE.   This is step 1.    What do you want the media to do?  Review your book?  Write a feature story?  Why on earth would they want to do that?   This is what you need to present in your news release.  This is where an experienced publicist or copywriter can help you.   If you don’t learn how to writer a really good news release you need to be prepared to pay for one to be created for you.   Costs vary from $150 to many times that.  Some copyrighters are better than others and have special areas in which they excel.  Hiring the right one is crucial. The second step requires you to present it to the right media.  This is step 2.   You either need to create a good customized list, or buy a good list, or hire someone to create it and let you use it.  Basically, you can transmit it by street mail, fax or email.  There may be other options but this is what is generally available.   To make sure your idea gets a fair hearing you may then want to go on to make a phone call and talk to your target media person.  This is Step 3.  This is also something you can do yourself, or hire someone to do for you.  The reason is that calling makes a difference.  You get through to the right person and ask them if they are interested.   This connection means a whole lot in a process that breaks down and produces nothing if you fail to get to a real person who will look at what you are proposing and make a decision.   Finally, to really convince them to publish your news, a review, or a feature story, or an interview, you may need to then send them the proof that what you’ve created is truly newsworthy.  This includes your book and a media kit so media can do a story.  This is Step 4.     Then to make sure it happens, you may need to do more follow up, and do another prospective interview, or send more information.   I do publicity for people for a living.  Writing news release is how I spend more than half my waking time.  My clients seem to feel the fees they pay are quite worth it.    

A news release is a very important document, much like a resume for someone who is searching for a job.   If your news release convinces a media person to give you coverage, it can be worth a lot to you financially.  In many cases I see that people get what they hope for and even dream of getting.    That’s because the media respond to a well written news release more than they respond to a poorly written one.   It’s not that miracles can be produced for everyone, but a well written news release presented to the right media will generally get their interest.  Media also respond well to people who make it easy for them to do their job easily.    Here are just a few stories to share about this past two weeks worth of news releases and media responses to give you some idea about the value of a news release to an author or a publisher: *  I sent out a news release for Dr. Linda Miles (author of The New Marriage) and Dr. Amy Bottwinick (author of Congratulations on Your Divorce) for Valentine’s Day.  Media interviews have been booked on network radio and tv shows in Florida, about a dozen radio shows across the country, a satellite uplink to Sacramento, and an interview scheduled with the Playboy Radio Network.  We sent out the release by email html on January 31, 2008 at 9 AM.  The first interview was booked within nine minutes, at 9:09 AM.   *  Last week I sent out a news release for Cary Black (author of Zen and the Art of Beer Can Chicken), to a customized media list of food editors, outdoor editors and men’s interest publications. 
Cary received over 40 media requests for review copies from the news release within 72 hours and booked a few interviews as well.  Then we started making phone calls to a top media list.  Ten hours of phone calls resulted in another 18 media requests, but these were from the top media in the country for his book.  This is who we reached and gave us a positive interest: Bon Appetit, Help Me Cook Magazine, Saveur, AARP The Magazine, Southern Living, Country Living, The New Yorker, Traditional Home, Midwest Living, Food & Wine, Mother Earth News, Fine Cooking, Associated Press, and a Food Columnist, with Tribune Media Services International.
 *  Last week I also wrote a news release for Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz (authors of The Enlightened Diet).  These authors asked me to write a news release and phone follow up to supplement the work done by the in-house publicist at Ten Speed Press.  The news release went out and we received about 20 very good media requests, with very little overlap with what the publicist had produced in the way of interest.  Then we started doing phone calls.  We received requests from book review, personal health, fitness and aging editors at Feeley News Bureau, Avanti News Features, People magazine, Newsweek, Redbook, USA Today, Glamour, Self, More, Essence Magazine, Elle, Vim & Vigor, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Journal, Prevention’s Guide Walking Fit, Experience Life, Life After 50, Quick & Simple.  

*  I sent out a news release for Health Communications Inc (publicizing the new Chicken Soup for the Soul – Love Stories), released just in time for Valentine’s Day.  This news release is done using a special tactic I developed which localizes each news release sent out.  The release then gets sent out to the local areas where each contributing author resides.  The release campaign is done over a two day period with no phone follow up at all.  We offer interviews with the local author and pdf files of their stories.  The campaign, done month after month, book after book, produces continuous publicity for Chicken Soup in newspapers and on radio and tv who respond to the presence of the localized news angle “local author in best selling series””.  The campaign produced dozens of review copy requests and the release is often printed verbatim.  Last week, the Pensacola News and the
Fort Wayne Indiana newspaper both printed stories using the news release within 24 hours with no verification whatsoever. 
*  I’ve also been doing a series of localized news releases for Stan and Sandra Posner (authors of Drive I-95, now in its 4th edition).  The real lesson learned from the many news releases we sent out for them overt the past two years is that it took a few new release failures to really identify and learn what the media really wants.  Our previous experience was that if the news release content offered up local food and entertainment, and interesting educational travel stops, then the media responded with great fact filled articles and interviews.  Before Christmas we sent out one news release that offered up good places to shop.  Media response was dismal.  After Christmas we switched back to food, entertainment and education, and media response was exceptional.  I sent out four news releases (MA-RI, CT, NY-NJ, and MD) and we had newspapers, radio and tv interview coverage in response to each one.  Stan and Sandra were even invited to stop in New York City on their way back to Montreal after a grueling five week research and promotion trip, where they spent two hours in a pre-show interview and discussion with producers from The Today Show.  Another media is expressing interest in Sandra and Stan doing a weekly travel column.  Of course, we are continuing to now deploy a state by state media campaign offering up, food, entertainment, and educational travel spots, and history trivia all up and down Interstate 95.  The news release copy is where all the blood sweat and tears will be found.  An experienced copywriter will be able to select the type of news release that has the highest probability of success to achieve your goals.   Hiring a copywriter is more expensive that the costs of the news release preparers who charge $150.  But of course, you will get what you pay for.   The more experienced and the more time an experience copywriter spends working on your release, the more it will likely cost you for the service performed.   I do not think you should be surprised if it takes $500 to $1000 to get an expert copywriter to give you a news release that has a really good chance of achieving media success.  That’s just for the news release.  Distribution to the right media may cost you more than that as well.   Hiring an expert is one option.  You can also learn to write a news release and do it yourself.  But of course, there is a learning curve and it can be expensive, time consuming, and difficult. 

You can increase your chances of success yes if you do your homework, identify and evaluate, and think through prior and existing media coverage of your topic.  You can avoid making the fatal errors yes.  But until you send the actual communication out, you won’t know what will happen.  It’s pure speculation.   Even expert copywriters sometimes fail to be successful.  But that doesn’t mean you can understand why it failed until and unless you go to the horses mouth and ask the media what it will take to turn your proposal into something viable for coverage. And guess what: until you actually strike the chord and really learn how to get media chakras humming, there is no guarantee that you or any copywriter you hire will write a news release that has a guarantee of success associated with it.   There is simply no way to predict media response to a news release!    So in conclusion, and I may be biased here by my years of evaluating news release success and failure, but I really believe that if you look at the hard data, there’s no question that when it comes to news releases and services, free cannot compared to fee. 

Paul J. KrupinDirect Contact PRReach the Right Media in the Right Market with the Right Messagehttp://www.DirectContactPR.com  Paul@DirectContactPR.comhttp://blog.directcontactpr.com/   800-457-8746   509-545-2707  

Posted on Tuesday, February 5th, 2008 at 12:36 pm In
book publicity, copywriting, news releases  

2 Responses to “Free press releases services — are they really worth it?”

  1. Troy Mosley Says:

    Hi Paul,

    You have laid out a very good public relations and free pr foundation. But what about sites like prweb, I have used them both for my professional career and promoting personal websites. Frankly, I paid over $250 per release to prweb and did not receive much attention. Then I started doing some research on public relations spam and wow, I was amazed at the number of editors for just about every type of publication moaning about press releases they have received from pr firms. Essentially quite a few editors feel they get spammed by pr firms and places like prweb. Thats why I started My Free PR to give small business owners with little or no PR budget a tool. I have always recommended they publish all news to their site first so editors and journalist can go directly to the source. I think places that want you to pay for posting a press release to their site is ridiculous. We have even done some tracking on varies press release we hosted and quite a few get large hits from the consumer whom may be searching on the topic the press release covers. More and more small business owners may be able to reach a large consumer base in the market for their products or services by having their press release distributed across many blogs and web pages. I agree with most of your article, however I don’t think we should discount the power a free press release site can give to the little guy.

  2. Paul Krupin Says:

    I think the answer is the proof of ROI.

    If it works, you do more of it. If it doesn’t stop and do something else, and do it before you lose your shirt!

    So like most things, time will tell.

    Paul J. Krupin
    Direct Contact PR
    Reach the Right Media in the Right Market with the Right Message
    http://www.DirectContactPR.com Paul@DirectContactPR.com
    800-457-8746 509-545-2707