Press release services can be powerful tools for publicity and brand management, but in the wrong hands a single press release can damage or even destroy the reputation of a business. This is troubling considering that there is a growing trend in internet marketing where press release submissions are included in SEO and other marketing campaigns without an understanding of press release writing techniques, long-standing and strictly enforced editor and media communication protocols, and submission and distribution practices. And because this trend has spawned a host of internet users posing as professional press release services, there could be a significant amount of liability involved for businesses that hire PR firms that don't know what they're doing. The following are 5 press release pitfalls that can be a reputation management nightmare:
1.) Indiscriminate Submissions can Damage your Relationship with the Media
This can best be explained by posing some simple questions:
Do you think the editor of Flowers Monthly is interested in your press release announcing the new website of a local plumber?
Do you think the managing editor of a Vermont daily newspaper is interested in your press release about a discount at your car wash in Oklahoma City?
The fact of the matter is that most press release services blast your press release off to thousands of editors who probably don't care about your unrelated garbage. Software programs that claim to distribute your press releases also indiscriminately send your news to editors who will likely become annoyed with your spam. Ultimately, that's what an unrelated press release is to an editor - spam - and it will be treated according.
With consistent indiscriminate submissions your name, web address and business will become known in the media industry (it's smaller than you think) as a rotten spammer peddling useless junk. If your reputation and public relations are important to you, you'll never submit your press release to an editor who isn't in your related region, industry or topic.
2.) Free Press Release Distribution Sites are Generally Rubbish
There are dozens of free press release distribution and submission sites out there and most of them are worthless. In fact, some of these sites are nothing more than article directories masquerading as press release sites. Most free sites don't distribute the news they receive except in the form of RSS feeds. Why should they? You give them free content when you submit your release, helping their website and advertising revenue grow.
However, there are a few good free press release sites - but some of them are very specific to their industries or area of interest. Just because they are free doesn't mean they'll be interested in your restaurant's grand opening release in the editing department of a gun fanatic magazine. Well, maybe.
Hint: There are about 15 free press release sites with PR5 or higher. These are the only ones that should be targeted.
3.) Bad Writing Kills
Press release writing that is outsourced overseas or to non-native English speakers usually shows it. In fact, if you can have a press release written cheaply, it's probably crap. You should expect to pay a minimum of $0.05 per word for excellent press release writing. This is critical because a poorly written press release will not just get thrown in the garbage - it will probably get passed around the editor's office for a good laugh. Additionally - and this may be untrue - but there are persistent rumors that some editors publish truly awful news releases as a natural and much-deserved attack on the issuer's reputation.
In any case, this should be a no-brainer: if you're putting press releases out there with illiterate writing, trashy grammar and no useful information, the public will recognize this and remember it, and that's not advertising that you want.
4.) Not Following Proper Protocol = Your Press Release in the Trash
Editors are demanding, and they should be. Their job, among many things, consists of sorting through mountains of crap - meaning bad writing - every day. And because the inbox of most editors requires a great deal of time and effort to manage, there is a particular method by which press release submissions should occur. Stray from these protocols and your release will never even get opened - except in the case where the editor is having a bad day and clicks it to send a scathing instructional response.
The trouble with this is that not every editor likes to receive submissions in the same way. How do you figure that out? You hire a professional PR company.
5.) Exaggerating can Destroy your Business
Just like exaggerating on a resume, it's common practice for people to bend the truth in their press releases. This is just plain stupid. Think about it - if your press release is successful, it will be in placed in front of a lot of editors, writers and journalists. If they subsequently come asking for the story and then discover through investigative process or even simple questioning that you've lied, they will then make a story out of THAT. Good-bye, reputation.