Has SEO Ruined PR & the Press Release?

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Public Relations and Press Relations are built upon the foundation of the PR practicioner being a middle man between the business world and the media or people. Even the name, press relations or publicist defines itself; ‘forming relationships with the press.’

A good public relations professional does just that, makes friends with members of the press, knows how to schmooze and manipulate them, how to fill in the holes when the journalists cannot, and how to position their clients as experts in the industry so the viewers of CNN or the Today Show believe so.

The job of a PR professional is not to write and mass distribute boilerplate press releases.

Sure, the press release has its time and place, but as a backup to hands on PR work.

Enter Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization however, has changed that perspective. In fact, the popularity of SEO has bred a new dawn of press release distribution services.

Now we have companies hiring SEO firms to write and distribute press releases, thinking that doing so is Public Relations. SEO firms are doing so, and charging a bundle, to distribute such releases to wire services which do not serve the press as their main audience.

Instead, the intent of the client and the SEO firm is to fill the search engine results, news search results, and blog search results with content which is in a lot of cases, simply not news.

Do Journalists Read 3rd Tier Wire Services?

Furthermore, I really do not believe that most traditional journalists read the “PR wires” which litter Google News.

Sure, if one is going to send out a national release on a real wire service such as MarketWire, Business Wire and PR Newswire, chances are a journalist or media intern may pick it up and if its written well enough, the company may get some coverage in a major newspaper, magazine, radio show or on television. These are major press release distribution services and also include video and audio distribution for multiple media.

Press Releases & Google News

But beyond the major and REAL press release companies, is there much strategy in sending a press release besides cluttering online news syndication channels?

The intent of the marketer sending out a press release on PRWeb or eReleases, in my opinion, is not to reach the press or pitch a story to a journalist.

Do journalists read and monitor these release wires?

  • PRWeb
  • eReleases
  • eMediaWire
  • Free Press Releases
  • Primenewswire
  • WebKnowHow
  • E-consultancy
  • Business Portal 24
  • Press World
  • American Digital Networks
  • WM Experts

Instead of reaching the desks of journalists, the intent of sending “news” over these services to appear in Google News and in organic search results.

The intent is to hope bloggers pick up the release and write about it, garnishing more links for the client.

The intent is if someone searches on Google or Google News for ‘Southwest Airlines’ they find carefully written promotional pieces as opposed to news or reviews about the company.

Press Releases vs. Paid Reviews

Would it make more sense to pay bloggers to write unbiased reviews of products?

I think it would. Unlike wire services, blogs have very loyal followings and there is a system of trust built between bloggers and their audiences.

Today I read a post entitled ReviewMe gets a little Shmarter: Better than A Press Release by Internet Marketer John Andrews, and it really struck a chord with me:

If you hire me to write your press release, and then pay the wire service to distribute it, you’re close to $1000 typically and even then the PR wire service is usually placing some restrictions on how many links you can have, what anchor text you can use, and how it gets archived.

With clever utilization of ReviewMe, you can get that professional marketer to write about your product or service, insert it into syndication for you (this blog pings over a hundred syndication alert systems), and archive it several times. What a bargain, no?

John, it’s a hell of a bargain.

Not only are these reviews read by thousands of blog readers,syndicated all over the web, and perhaps linked to from other blogs… but they are done in the natural language of the blogger.

Press releases are boring and for the most part are just regurgitated lines about how great a product is or how they are the premier service in their industry.

Who cares!?!? Tell me and the Internet about the product. If you don’t want to use a service like ReviewMe or PayPerPost because of the ethics of paid blog reviews, send your products to bloggers.

Send us iPods, t-shirts, fruit baskets, flashing radios, free samples, or just write a nice email.

Chances are, we’ll use them, write about them, and link to your company. It’s that simple.

In the long run, I think that like traditional public relations, building relationships with the online media, whether they be blogs, online news sites, or email newsletters; is much more valuable in the long run than spending your marketing budget to spam Google News with press releases on 3rd tier wire services.

What do you think? Your comments are very welcome.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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