Bloggers can get anywhere from 5-200 press releases and Public Relations outreach pitches each day. So often, I hear bloggers complain about the influx of inappropriate emails or the “zero budget.” As a former PR and marketing professional who currently sits on the side of blogging more than marketing, I wanted to dispel a few misunderstandings in the blogging world. The purpose of a Press Release is to share information with the media
The Goal of a Press Release is to Get the Word Out. Period
There is a big difference between a press release and other marketing communications. A well-written Press Release does one thing: it attempts to blanket all appropriate media with information necessary to spread the word about clients’ news. The writer of the release wants to get the media’s attention so that you, the media writer, will see it’s worthwhile to share it with her circulation (readers).
You aren’t expected to reply to a Press Release unless you need more information
On a release, there should be a “For more information” line with contact information. That is not an invitation to write back and engage. The purpose of that contact is to supply additional information that isn’t included in the release to help you get the information you need to share the news.
Should you reply to emails, PR agents send you that aren’t standard releases? Yes. Of course. But when you receive a release, the only reasons to reply are for more information (in that case, check the specific “For More Information” or “Contact” email address before replying) or to share with them your content after you shared it with your readers, to assist their clipping service, their portfolio or their records. Remember, check to make sure you reply to the contact listed; it isn’t always the same as the press release sender.
Press Releases aren’t personalized because they’re sent through a service…
More often than not, the releases you receive in your inbox are sent through a subscription service. How does this work? Big companies like PR Newswire have an enormous list of media outlets. When your outlet is added to the list, they categorize it and include your site and email address in their list-serve. An agency who is a subscriber can push a release through the service. In these cases, the agency likely doesn’t have your contact information.
…or they’re sent in bulk
Other agencies build their own lists and send the emails out through their lists. Imagine being an agent, juggling a few clients, sending out major press releases after the press release. Now, imagine her having to send them out not through her list but individually to 10,000 media outlets. She would never meet her deadline, and it would be old news by the time you received the Release. She doesn’t want to send you old news and, let’s face it; you don’t want to receive it.
Therefore, if you receive a “Dear Blogger” or a “To the Media” email, consider the alternative: an agent sending out the emails individually to several thousand, just to spread the word on her news. She’d have to send it to the big names first, like HuffPo, Yahoo, CNN… by the time you received it, the news would be several weeks old. Consider, would you rather receive a Press Release addressed to you, personally, as month-old news or a release that shares in-the-moment news?
In Public Relations, there really is a Zero Budget
One of the most frustrating things I hear from bloggers is, “I know the agent is lying to me. They have to have a budget. They’re getting paid!” There’s a common misconception that all agencies have money to spend on media buys. Here’s what you need to know: In the field of Marketing, there are more than 14 different categories. (This article further examines categories of Marketing.) The categories have subcategories, and subcategories have super-subcategories.
Some agencies do one thing only: write and release press releases. They’re hired just for that purpose. Other times, agencies that do many types of campaigns are hired just for Press Release campaigns. Further, most campaigns are very specifically budgeted. They really don’t have a budget to pay for you to share their release.
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”PRSA
Public Relations, by definition, has the goal of sharing information to communicate in a way that is beneficial to everyone. So when you receive a “line” that offers to share your information, they see that as beneficial to you. In the traditional PR mindset, offering you information to share with your readers that applies to and is interesting to your readers benefits you as well as their client. They’re providing the information you need to keep your content helpful, current, and informed.
Overall, a marketing campaign will have a budget, but the PR agent’s budget isn’t meant for sharing press release news.
Remember, I’m a blogger, too. I far prefer campaigns where I can partner and work together with the client
I’m not going to pretend that I enjoy all the press releases that end up in my email inbox. For the most part, I delete them because they don’t apply to me and my readership. Or I forward them on to a friend because they’ll apply to her. But, every once in a while, I’ll receive a release that does apply to me and my readers and has information worth sharing with them–it’s mutually beneficial for me to share.
Of course, I recognize the difference between online media and print. Public Relations professionals do as well. They know that we are paid through advertising and paid campaigns–this isn’t news to them. And, if they have a campaign that’s paid and you’re a good fit, or if their advertising or marketing department wants to work with you, they’ll reach out when the time is right. That’s why it’s really important to network with the right people. Even more so, it’s important to be respectful of the positions the Public Relations people are in. I’m sure; if they had a budget of millions and millions of dollars, they’d love to pay to guarantee that you would share their release. But that’s not their department’s job. That’s what advertising departments do.
Related posts on Julieverse:
- Dear Blogger, Please: Advice to bloggers from bloggers and marketers
- Mom Blogging: How do I start?
- Are you PR Friendly? What a Marketing or PR person needs to see on your blog
- Defining Opportunities in Blogging: Should a blogger get paid for that?!
- Wait. You want me to blog for your paper, you’ll copywrite it and not pay me? I don’t think so.
Also, check out the many books written by my friends in the sidebar.