Press Release Distribution Services: Spray and Pray Doesn’t Always Work
By Brian Chandler, president
Press release distribution services are increasingly becoming a form of lazy media relations.
Lately, I have been bombarded with questions from clients about the many paid services that will distribute a press release to hundreds, if not thousands, of reporters and news sites throughout the world. Questions are:
- Why aren’t reporters calling us to do official stories about our news when we use this service?
- Do reporters actually get my press release and read it when it goes out on a wire?
- Why does our press release show up on news websites, but then go away after 30 days?
- Is it really worth the money?
I can remember when I first joined a PR firm in the early 2000s and distribution services like PR Newswire and Business Wire would battle for our agency’s business. I remember the results as well, and they were great. Reporters would actually receive our press release and call to arrange interviews with our clients for larger stories. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Let me be clear that financial institutions are required to use services like this to distribute their news for federal regulatory compliance purposes. Distribution services also can be a great way to get news onto the web when we know that it might have a small chance of getting picked up, but should still be seen.
It’s true some reporters will receive our clients’ press releases via one of these wire services and call for an interview, but there is a more strategic approach to media relations.
For example, one of our new national clients was tired of having their press releases blasted out. I told them, in this case, the “Spray and Pray” approach is lazy media relations. Our agency would rather target the top 20 publications that reach their audiences, build relationships with those reporters and editors, and pitch them solid news stories that get covered. We’re two months in with the client and they have already received more quality news stories than in the last five years.
This is one of the reasons why press release services are hurting. Journalists are crushed with emails, phone calls, distribution services, and other forms of communication. They get tired of it. As a former journalist myself, I recall some of the press releases I would receive that had nothing to do with my news beat and were poorly written.
As long ago as four years, Vikki Chowney of Econsultancy wrote the following blog that addressed this same topic:
I like that Chowney went straight to the horse’s mouth for intel on the distribution services and talked to many companies themselves. A quick click on many of the company names revealed that they are no longer in business. It says a lot that this was being written about four years ago and is still a question today.
Lastly, social media, Google alerts, and other customizable online services allow reporters to get access to news they care about like never before.
Unless you are in an industry that is required by compliance regulations to communicate your news via a press release distribution service, I ask you to challenge your PR staff or your agency the next time you hear, “Let’s send this out via a distribution service.” Tell them to find their top 10 to 20 publications in your industry and utilize the tried and true tactic of picking up the phone and talking person-to-person with an editor or reporter. It’s a technique that still works and will generate better results in the long run.