It has seldom been easy to get a news story published in a major news outlet or trade publication, but in the past 10 years it has gotten much harder. There is less space for stories and fewer reporters to cover them because many papers and magazines have folded, cut staff or at least scaled back the number of pages they publish.
But while one thing is lost, another is gained. Hard copy publications have receded, but the online world has exploded. We’ve gained a plethora of blog writers whom we can pitch. The challenge is to find those bloggers, some of whom occupy a small niche. You can search the Web and Google Blog Search, gradually becoming familiar with the bloggers in your field or industry, but that can be time-consuming. Also, the blogosphere is a changing landscape because bloggers can quickly come and go; some were active months or years ago but silent now. You can subscribe to an editorial contacts and calendar service but those are cost-prohibitive for most independent PR consultants, small businesses or non-profits. I admit this is an area where I have not had much experience or traction, so if anyone wants to comment here, feel free! Meanwhile, check out this recent (May 20, 2012) PR Newswire news release on how to reach bloggers.
Another change is that today’s PR professionals are writing for the search engines as much as they are writing for reporters and editors (who still get bombarded with pitch emails, by the way.) Every time you post a press release on your web site, the search engines can see it. The more you update your web site and add new content, the more search engines recognize your site as an authority on those topics. That’s why in general it’s good to issue a press release even if it’s not major news item. It’s been said that if your company sneezes, you should issue a press release about it.
Of course, in addition to posting a release on your web site you can post your releases on a major news distribution site like PR Newswire or Business Wire, because those companies spend many resources on getting noticed by search engines and traditional news outlets. There are a multitude of companies that distribute news releases, so shop around; it’s become less expensive, due to the growth in number of distribution companies competing for your PR budget dollars. Bear in mind, however, that sometimes you get what you pay for, since not every distribution service has strong search engine optimization systems in place.
By the way, companies often use the terms “press release” and “news release” interchangeably, in part because a release is not necessarily written only for the press. When you post a release on your web site you can re-purpose it several ways: post it on your Facebook page, include a link in your monthly newsletter and blog, Tweet about it. In other words, leverage the heck out of it. You get the picture.
Public relations firms, marketing departments and consultants have had to adapt to these changes, or suffer the consequences. Yes, we still want to reach readers, listeners and viewers in mainstream media outlets, but if we can’t make it to the “big time,” well then at least we can aim to get noticed by the search engines, and channel the news through bloggers, email and social media outlets.
Geez, remember the old days (the 1990s) when we’d rely on trusty old Business Wire? Or if we were on a small budget with a regional audience, we’d stand at the fax machine for 2 hours, faxing our releases one by one with individual cover sheets? Oh my. One thing you can bet on; the PR landscape will certainly change again, as technology evolves. Someday, these will be “the old days, the old ways.” I’d be interested in hearing from readers like you about what lies ahead for PR pros.
For further reading… HubSpot, the Cambridge, MA-based inbound marketing company, has written a few blogs on how to write and leverage press releases; here’s one called “3 Characteristics of Successful Modern-Day Press Releases.”