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Friday, October 27, 2006

Free press release distribution options...Alternatives to PR Newswire and a word of caution...

I write press releases. I don't, however, deal in the distribution end of the process with any regularity. I'm better at writing than I am at filling out submission forms and, quite frankly, penning them is a more enjoyable and lucrative way to spend the day.

I know that many of my clients have utilized PR Web for press release distribution. Some of them have paid accounts enabling maximum exposure through the service. Most of them, however, have relied upon the free submission option. That's no longer happening. PR Web has ended the free service.

PR Web wasn't a perfect distribution tool, by any means. Press releases usually generate PR most effectively when there is careful targeting of appropriate media outlets and the passive/untargeted nature of PR Web never accomplished that completely. It did, however, offer the potential of pretty good exposure. I've had clients who experienced great success with releases distributed via PR Web--even when using the now-departed free option.

Now that option's gone and I have a feeling people are looking for alternative means of free distribution.

This list may not be comprehensive and I haven't checked every site on it recently, but here is a list of free press release distribution services:


You can set up free accounts with these sites and send your press release out into cyberspace at no cost.

Wow, if you sent your press release to every one of those nineteen sites on the list, you could undoubtedly get some real mileage out of the process, right? Not necessarily. That's where the word of warning comes into play.

Press releases, as the term implies, are designed to spur press (I prefer "media," but you get the idea) attention and to encourage journalists, et al, to cover your story. They are not advertisements. They are not articles. They are press releases. They serve a pretty specific function.

For the sake of this post, let's assume you have a well-written press release that will do a great job at PR-creation if put in front of the right people. It's hard to underestimate how important that really is, by the way. Consult with a professional, do your homework and hire someone with press release experience (Content Done Better, anybody?) to make sure you really are in that position.

Okay, so you have a great press release. You could print it and frame it, but that won't help in your PR efforts. You have to get the word out. You need to get it in front of the folks who can make your project, site or statement into "news."

That means that the only press release distribution options that really make sense are those that will either send the release to media or who are actually regular stops for those digging for story ideas.

Are the sites in the list capable of doing that? Some of them probably are (under just the right circumstances with some luck thrown in for good measure). Many of them, however, really aren't. Either their free package has so many limitations on distribution that it really won't help much or the press release site is actually little more than an article repository in disguise.

You see, the word is out with respect to press releases. What was once something of a semi-secret is now common knowledge. Everyone wants to grab free pub by using a press release. So, there are a lot of them out there. Every single one of them is full of words. Those words feed search engines. They also serve up Adsense ads. Getting the picture? Many of the free PR distribution sites are Associated Content without the payment. They are the equivalent of free article distribution sites; you are just trading your content for potential exposure instead of viral backlink generation.

Does that mean you have to buy the upgrade for all nineteen of those sites or at PR Newswire? No. Does it mean that you shouldn't bother submitting press releases to those sites? No. If you are going to submit the release somewhere, you might as well maximize its utility and get the word out everywhere. In many cases, it won't do much more than score you an occasional backlink and create a new listing people to see when they Google your name, but the time commitment required to submit the material is minimal. So, if you have a few extra minutes to burn, send it to the next place on the list.

However, broadcasting the release to those nineteen sites using only free options is unlikely to make you the lead story in tomorrow's papers. To be honest, it probably won't even get you in to the weekly shopper that gets dumped off at the laundromat. Yeah, you might get some online cache from the process but you aren't going to experience the power of a good press release unless you either pay one of the big boys to do it right or design and execute your own carefully planned distribution strategy.

The world of online press release distribution has changed. There is a glut of press releases out there vying for attention and it is easy to disappear into the crowd. Those who could put press releases into use as part of the online media are more likely than ever to utilize different options to generate story ideas and leads.

I am a believer in press releases. I have seen them work again and again for my clients. I have seen some of them fall flat, too. The difference has been in the distribution. If you have a good press release and work to get it out there in the right way, good things can happen. If you have a lousy release or a poor distribution scheme, that's a different story...