Revised March 2020

Every marketing firm is familiar with press release writing as a traditional form of marketing and PR outreach. Even long before the emergence of the Internet, press releases were a primary tool for announcing newsworthy events for an organization or small business. But press releases today aren’t the same as they were a decade ago. The way they’re written and distributed has changed—as has their purpose.

Back in the day, the process worked something like this. A PR specialist wrote, printed, then mailed the release (yes, with a stamp) to relevant newspapers and/or magazines. All this with the hope an editor would find it newsworthy. Whether the editor used the press release to write a story or printed it outright, businesses were able to reach readers within that publication’s circulation.

Today, with the decline in print media and the rise of all things digital, it’s a little bit different.

The landscape for releases has changed

The concept of press release writing and distribution has changed with the advent of the Internet. That begs the question: are press releases still relevant?

In short, the answer is yes.

Today marketers can reach a huge target audience online. Despite traditional and print media declining in popularity, press releases are still relevant as a way to market your business or organization. They’re still focused on timely, newsworthy information—but thanks to digital hosting and distribution, their value extends even further, to things like SEO and reputation management.

What marketers and businesses need to understand now is that press releases rarely make it into the hands of journalists and editors. Unless you write a release for a Fortune 500 company and distribute it through a premium wire service, the odds are minimal that it’ll get picked up and run by broad media.

There are a few exceptions. Small business press releases can get picked up in local papers or a mid-sized company can piggyback on big news to get written into a feature.

So, what’s the point? If the odds of media pickup are low, why spend the money on press release writing?

3 reasons to make press release writing part of your PR strategy

The advantage of press release writing toady is threefold. To tap into these benefits, marketers need to stop thinking of press releases as a form of media outreach and instead, realize their potential as accessible paid media. That said, here are three reasons to hit the refresh button on the old press release:

1. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Backlinking is still important for SEO, and it’s still one of the hardest parts of optimizing a site. Too many people try to buy or spam links, but we know by now that quality is much preferred to quantity. Where can you get quality backlinks, quickly? From press release writing! If even one site with a higher page rank than you picks up your release, your release was worth it.

Distributing press releases also puts them out there for anyone to link to, giving you more targets for backlinking. While you won’t get much SEO juice from the everyday aggregators and re-publishers, there’s a chance your release will land on a local site and glean reputability from it.

2. Getting your name out there

Is your brand up-and-coming? Been on the scene for a few years? Celebrating a decade in business? It doesn’t matter unless people know you. Exposure is key for any business, for marketing, generating sales, branding and more. And while Google Ads is a great way to get visibility, the costs can add up fast. A well-written press release can accomplish some of the same results for a fraction of the cost.

Optimize your press release with the right keywords, links, location data and other relevant information and it’s likely to show up in front of your target audience. Best of all, after distribution press releases become part of native search results, which means your once-paid media has the potential to become earned.

3. A public history of your company

Your business is an evolving machine. It changes yearly, monthly, weekly—even daily in the case of growth-hacking startups. You need a record of your growth and a paper trail for the public to follow, to show everyone how far you’ve come. People relate to a brand’s story, and it helps when they can follow yours firsthand.

A trail of press releases also informs people. If a journalist does end up writing a story on your business, they’ll see a history of data to comb through for details. Likewise, a customer who has questions about your business may do a little digging to find out what you’re all about. A paper trail of press releases is a great way to build a living history and reputation for your business.

Work with a professional writer

Although it’s possible for you to write your own press release for your business or organization, in most cases it’s best to work with a professional. The reasons why are simple.

First and most obvious, professional press release writers know the structure, semantics and format of a press release. A pro can turn one out that’s exactly what it needs to be to get traction. It saves you the time of a tedious editing process and puts your release ahead of others written in-house, by companies without the foresight to pay a pro.

It’s also helpful to hire a professional who can look objectively at information while writing. Many business owners and employees are too close to the information they’re sharing. They know the talking points and the value proposition, but they might not be able to separate themselves from the jargon or explain concepts in a simple, public-facing way.

Finally, you need to consider press release writing and distribution as a process. Most smaller businesses don’t know where or how to disseminate a release, or what it means to put one out. It’s often easier to trust a professional to write, mock-up, distribute and report on a release.

Press release writing is still worth it

Press releases might not be what they once were, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful to businesses. While it’s true public companies and Fortune 500 enterprises get much more value out of a release than any small business, the difference for the little guys is strategic. Don’t think about it as a PR tool, so much as a way to establish your business publicly, professionally and with authority.