PR Fundamentals: Distributing a Press Release versus Pitching the Press

Industry: Press Release Tips

(PRUnderground) July 16th, 2019

If you are new to Public Relations (PR), it can be confusing to understand the difference between issuing a press release and pitching a story to the press. It may feel like it’s all the same thing, but it’s not. The effort and results are completely different.

Let’s take a closer look.

Distributing a Press Release:

This marketing initiative involves writing a 1-2 page press release announcement for your company, uploading it to one of the online press release distribution services, who then distributes it (and sometimes publishes it directly) to a network of search engines, news websites, and social media. This announcement then gets published verbatim across these news websites and internet platforms.

Pros of Press Release Distribution:

  • Guaranteed Coverage: Pickup of your press release is pretty much guaranteed if you use an online press release distribution service. How? Because reputable services partner with news sites that agree to publish each press release.
  • Affordable: As long as you are not paying too much ($500+ per press release in our opinion is too much), you can get some web coverage for your business for as little as $20.
  • Fast: Once you submit a press release, you can typically get pick up in Google and news sites within a few hours
  • Longevity Online: People searching in Google News or Google often come across press releases distributed weeks, months or even years earlier.
  • Positive Message: With a press release, you control the entire message, so you can be assured of positive and accurate coverage for your company.
  • Reach: By being published on Google News and other news websites, your press release can reach readers of all types, from journalists researching a story to potential customers, investors, partners, and others. It even gives existing customers and employees confidence to see your company active in the news.

Cons of Press Release Distribution:

  • Not Exclusive: By definition a press release is not an exclusive for a writer in the media, so they may consider it stale news once it has been published as a press release. So it is not a good way to pitch press writers.
  • Not front page news: Press releases are almost never republished on the front page or even in the main sections of online news websites. The news websites reserve the front page and the main sections of their publication for original stories written by their writers.

Pitching the Press:

A pitch is a story idea which typically involves your company or client. This marketing effort involves creating a target list of publications and websites that are relevant to your pitch, identifying the writers or editors which cover your specific area or location at these media outlets, and then individually and personally contacting them to let them know about your upcoming news or topic idea to try to get them to write a story about your company.

Pros of Pitching the Press:

  • Original Coverage: To get an original story written about or including your company is a big deal and can have a huge impact on your business. It may drive new sales or give your company more credibility in your industry. One of these stories can benefit your company for years. The value of a an original story in a important publication far exceeds the value of a pickup of your general press release on news sites.
  • Longevity online: Similar to a press release but even better, an old story about your company may be found in Google News or Google for a long time.
  • SEO value: Oftentimes, earned media (rather than paid for) isn’t subject to the same SEO restrictions as paid media (ads, press releases, etc) and the links can be ‘follow’ links, which in turn can help your SEO value.

Cons of Pitching the Press:

  • No Guarantees: You may pitch 100 writers and get ignored 100 times. There are no guarantees of any coverage when pitching the press
  • Expensive: If you hire a publicist or PR firm, you are likely looking at a monthly retainer of $2,000-$15,000 for a minimum of 3-6 months. If you do it in-house, it may not cost anything more but it will take time.
  • Time-consuming: It takes time to come up with good pitch ideas, research relevant writers, and contact them one by one with a personal note about your pitch including why it builds on a topic they cover, or would be of great interest to their readers. Ideally you rank your target list, and offer each writer one by one an exclusive on the story before contacting the next writer on the list, particularly if you have something where an exclusive matters (a new market report, first look at a product launch, other big news). It takes a lot of time waiting to see if a writer is interested. Sometimes it may take a year or more just to build a relationship with a writer where they respond to your emails. Even if you do get a writer to cover your company with a story, it may take weeks or months to get it published.
  • Story Uncertainty: Unlike a press release, the writer can write whatever they want. You do not control the narrative. Sometimes the writer gets the story slightly wrong, or potentially can write a negative piece. Of course, they can do this whether or not you pitch them.

We would highly suggest using both PR tactics, first pitching writers and then issuing a press release. If you get a positive original story from your pitch, it can be incredibly valuable. So try that first. After attempting to pitch, issue a press release on the topic for some guaranteed web and search engine coverage on your company. PR is just one aspect of marketing, and using these two tactics will go a long way to help your company’s visibility in the public. It is one of the best ways to get in front of potential customers, partners, investors, media, and reassure existing customers and employees about your company.

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