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Direct-to-Consumer News Releases: Do they suck?

12 June 2006 19 Comments

That the Web has changed the rules for press releases is not disputed. Press releases are now read by millions of consumers on Google News, Yahoo News, newspaper and magazine sites and countless vertical market sites. Thousands of organizations are submitting press releases to the wire services (PRWeb, BusinessWire, PR Newswire,  NewsReleaseWire.com, and others) with the purpose of reaching buyers directly. For these marketers, reaching consumers is the goal and if a journalist happens to see the press release, that's an added benefit.

Since I first posted my free e-book The New Rules of PR on my blog, 75,000 people have downloaded it and hundreds of bloggers, including heavy hitters like Seth Godin have jumped into the discussions. What do you think?

Many PR professionals resist direct-to-consumer PR. They say that it isn't pure. I often hear PR pros say that the purpose of PR is to influence the media and have them tell your story. Yes, but today you can also tell your story directly.

Is it time to step it up and consider the promise Web 2.0 public relations holds? Do we need to alter the way we think about press releases? Or, as Steve Rubel has said, do “direct-to-consumer press releases suck”?

Please join the discussion.

19 Comments »

  • Anonymous said:

    David,
    I agree with the theory behind posting press releases online. However, I'm still not 100% convinced that it works — especially for local stories. SEO-PR is great for building links back to one's site. It's not so great for getting press in the local media. For that, you still need good old-fashioned relationships with local reporters and editors.
    Dianna Huff

  • Anonymous said:

    Dianna and David,
    I don't think Direct-to-Consumer press releases are meant to REPLACE regular media news releases…. anymore than blogs are meant to replace newsletters. It's an added dimension to reaching the eyes (and ears, with podcasts) of your audience.
    My problem with D2C (hey, will I go down in history for that one?) releases is that not enough of the people we need to reach are RSS savvy. Essentially, we're only reaching geeks. Or people (like me) who speak geek as a second language.
    Morty

  • Anonymous said:

    Hey Morty
    While I agree that many people are not RSS saavy, all press releases sent through the major news release services appear on Google News, Yahoo News and the others and releases that are posted to online media rooms are indexed by the web search engines. D2C PR is about being found in search engines and that strategy works. No RSS required.
    David

  • Anonymous said:

    Hey David!
    Agreed… Only the real magic to what you are proposing is to bypass the official wholesalers of news and create a new direct marketing of information. And what we need is an easy way for us consumers to get that information.
    David… if I may… we need your stone to slay Goliath!

  • Anonymous said:

    David,
    Welcome to the hot seat on “This Week on IAOCblog.com”!
    A news release going to Google News or Yahoo or PR Newswire or Internet Wire — etc. — is not “direct to consumer.” It's direct to intermediary. Direct to consumer would be e-mailed or, as Morty says, subscribed to via RSS. I doubt very many people are going to subscribe to a D2C news release feed — at least, not knowingly.
    So this D2C strategy relies on the consumer searching for the information in some manner and then choosing it from the search results.
    Am I getting this correct?
    STEVE O'KEEFE

  • Anonymous said:

    Hi David,
    In my experience (backed up by statistics, along with having clients receive accolades in the media, meet Richard Branson in Times Square, and get Wall Street Journal coverage from Direct-to-Consumer PR) this is THE way to go in the social web/Web2.0.
    I've been a power user of PRWeb's platform since 2003, and an avid user since David McInnis launched the company in 1997-98. (NOTE: I've also invested heavily in PR Newswire and spent plenty of time and money exploring the other 2nd-tier platforms over the last 20 years).
    My experience is that direct-to-consumer PR, in all forms, is substantial. (“All forms” means when I use PRWeb I get more than the written release, but also PRWebPhotowire for print-ready images, RSSPad for adding RSS to my web content, NewsPad.com as a clipping service and competitive intelligence, PRWebPodcast to handle audio interviews, etc…). It's turnkey, and where I'm weak, they're strong.
    Here's the gig on (what I believe) is the plan for successful PR today:
    1) Remove the media filter as a barrier to the velocity of the PR message. Timing is money.
    2) Enhance the PR message through a 360-degree approach. Use every media type possible (print, still image, audio, video).
    3) Bolster the PR elements with online technology (RSS syndication, integrated SEO-SEM, trackbacks and social media connections).
    4) Ensure both the media AND the consumer receive the PR. Let social commentary raise the value of the PR to the media, and increase consumer interest and education in parallel.
    5) Measure the results via web and clipping service-type results, along with bottom-dollar revenue.
    I know, nothing breathtaking here, but it's all important.
    David, I'm not sure where you're coming from on this, but from my view, a press release is no longer an instrument of sterile factoids hoisted on the media. In the trenches with clients daily, I can't afford to be missed by the end-user of our client's products and services. I need direct results, and I need it in every possible format, and definitely within blogs, forums and the other online buzz machines.
    If the media can find my release through the (roughly) 3,000 releases foisted on them daily, that rocks. But until I can guarantee regular, daily stories in the media, with web-connected content and links back to my client for the viewer, I'm going to keep pressing the direct-to-consumer message and at least get a level of assurance that what I say is what they get.
    Power to the People!
    Best,
    Mark Alan Effinger
    RichContent

  • Anonymous said:

    Hi Steve,
    I just read your post, and have an interesting stat:
    Approximately 10,000,000 custom RSS feeds have been created on http://www.NewsPad.com specifically to track press releases.
    Sure, there are probably a number of feeds going to a single client. But that's still a pretty significant number.
    Yes, direct email to clients is THE most direct method… or WAS, until spam filters wreaked havoc on guaranteed delivery.
    RSS is all but guaranteed. It's PULL content, and can only be acquired via a user request.
    No, I don't think RSS is the cure for media distribution… but I DO find that I have my browser customized to pull my feeds, and I do find myself adding and deleting feeds pretty regularly. It's a very cool, elegant process.
    As consumers become more aware of their media syndication options, I believe you'll find these sorts of tools being utilized at an ever greater rate.
    And come on, as a media junkie (I have 30+ monthly personal magazine subscriptions along with my dozens of online feeds) I get the opportunity to view PR both pre and post the Media Filter.
    At this point, the post is cool as it adds some sizzle, and often a custom image that is more sizzle than the one submitted with the PR. But often it's so innacurate, or a quote is so out of context it becomes gibberish.
    And it usually trails the pre-media-filter by weeks, if not months.
    So, if you've got time to waste, go for it. But if time is money, and you need or want instantaneous feedback, I suggest real-time direct-to-consumer might be a good way to go (you can always supplement your online D2C efforts with a more personal approach to ensure placement in the print rags).
    Make sense?
    best,
    Mark Alan Effinger
    RichContent.com

  • Anonymous said:

    This comment arrived via e-mail from Debbie Weil.
    (Sorry for the trouble with our blogware.)
    On 6/12/06, Debbie Weil wrote:
    > It's splitting hairs as to whether it's direct-to-consumer or
    > direct-to-intermediary. It's a new kind of PR based on how easy it is
    > for *anyone* to do a Google search and come up with information they
    > can use.
    >
    > :)

  • Anonymous said:

    Mark,
    I think you'll find we have more in agreement than might at first appear.
    I and my team spend most of our day making sure our clients (book publishers) get their message heard online. We do that by syndicating excerpts of new books through online discussion groups. These excerpts are essentially direct-to-consumer content. We render in text, html, pdf, in video and through podcast video. Push the video into iTunes, Google Video, YouTube, and pretty soon you have some very large D2C numbers.
    When you say, “Let social commentary raise the value of the PR to the media,” I am right there with you. We are now speaking of news releases that are no longer news releases; they are programming. You exchange something of value for attention — help with a problem, an entertaining animation, a tip sheet for packing Christmas presents…
    David, what say you about news releases as news programs? or entertainment?
    STEVE O'KEEFE

  • Anonymous said:

    Debbie, David & Steve (sounds like a 60's folk trio!),
    I can just see the next generation clock radio. Instead of a dial, it will have a keypad. And you type in News or Weather or Woody Guthrie… and it searches for the station with the most hits!
    Come to think of it, I already have that on my computer–with Pandora.com!

  • Anonymous said:

    It has been a crazy week and I am jumping into this conversation a bit late.
    Steve, to your direct-to-intermediary comment I will disagree. Search engines, including news search are places where consumers live online. How much of your daily online activity is spent in search v email v RSS? My guess is that is fairly evenly split. So placement of press releases and optimization of news for search are valid direct-to-consumer endeavors. It is not by any means the entire scope of the exercise, but it is important.

  • Anonymous said:

    Steve,
    Thank you for your thoughtful dialogue here. (Mark I am not ignoring you, you already know where I stand.) I agree that news release or press release is probably the best name for what we do any more, I guess that is why we put the D2C modifier on it to distinguish it from the rest of the news releases.
    That said, whenever you try to affect change it is valuable to try to frame the discussion around familiar concepts; hence the adherence to the term press release. Want to help us come up with something new? My guess is that it will be a while before the community will adopt a new term.
    See you at the top.
    — David

  • Anonymous said:

    So far in the discussion of “DIrect-to-Consumer press releases do they suck”, I haven't seen anyone answer the question: Who is the consumer anyway? My guess is that if you polled the average American and asked them to define consumer, they would describe someone who buys consumer goods; hopefully we all know what those are.
    The problem with this definition is that it is too narrow for the purpose of d2c press releases. I recently purchased and read the Outsell report on how businesses obtain/source information. It turns out that by a large margin, businesses prefer to receive their news unfiltered — as press releases. Whoa! Press Release have outpaced industry journals in informing the business world. By the way, the report showed the trend across all industries including non-profit, government and education.
    Could it be that businesses fall into the definition of consumer? I think so. A large part of our customer base consists of business or individuals trying to reach the business consumer.
    See you at the top.
    –David McInnis

  • Anonymous said:

    Hi David (McInnis) – thanks for jumping into this conversation. I guess it is obvious to all, but I think direct press releases are terrific and you and your team at PRWeb are innovators and evangelists in this area and provide a valuable service to people like me.
    When I work with companies on press release strategies, I use the term “buyer” rather than consumer. So I say these are “direct-to-buyer” press releases. I know that doesn't quite cut it for non-profits (direct to contributor), politicians (direct to voter), educational institutions (direct to applicant) and others, but I like the term buyer. In the for-profit world, buyer is both B2B and B2C.
    David (Scott)

  • Anonymous said:

    Sorry I was not able to jump into all of this until now.
    There are some great discussions going on here Dave. Thank you.
    Dianna, I can understand your concerns about not being “100% convinced that it works”.
    What I can say is that I believe the number of RSS savvy users is on the rise. Also popular are plug and play options giving web masters the ability to simply cut and paste a few lines of code to carry headline news.
    We have received many positive comments from our users. Mainly for using our site as an avenue to reach media which in turn have given some of our customers telephone interviews, television interviews and alike. This would lead me to believe that for some people Direct-to-Media would be working. As far as Direct to consumer? I believe this does work, but indirectly.
    From my understanding, the value of back links within a press release for SEO purposes is overestimated, especially with the major search engines. The value in a back link is to direct the reader to a web site (hopefully a journalist looking to further a story). If you had asked me about back links 12-18 months ago, my thoughts would have been different. If anyone knows differently on this, I am all ears. This information is only my understanding from what I have read on different forums.
    Michael Iwasaki
    http://www.24-7pressrelease.com

  • Anonymous said:

    Hi Michael,
    And welcome to the discussion!
    The indication you mention of RSS being on the rise is correct (in a big way). In fact, as a media port, it's becoming almost transparent as browsers and email clients integrate RSS into their packages.
    With that in mind, RSS is truly “direct to consumer”, or whatever we've collectively agreed to label “individuals and organizations who buy our stuff”.
    Finally, in regards to backlinks: Peruse any good SEO forum and you'll begin to see the value of backlinks (amongst other SEO elements). They are real, effective, and important in the long-term strategy of a web presence. Big time.
    I won't bore you with the details, but rest assured, it's a critical component of any long-term online strategy (in fact, there are whole busineses built on helping clients acquire strong backlinks).
    There certainly IS a great value in the chickthrough value of embedded links in press releases… especially if there are well designed “landing pages” for those clicks.
    And your Direct-to-Media comment is definitely accurate (we share that same experience). Within the context of long-term results, I would prefer my clients not create press releases in expectation of a short-lived or one-time event, but instead use them as an indelible online resource to boost and finesse their message, whatever that may be. Give me PR that lives forever!
    Thanks again for jumping-in.
    Best,
    ME

  • Anonymous said:

    David,
    thanks for the great discussion. In my experience of building online newsrooms for over 300 companies (90% public) I've found that many of the decision makers within these organizations don't even understand RSS yet. We've also found in our research that consumers far outpace working journalists in the adoption of RSS Readers to consume news.
    I'd agree with Mark that “best practices” are to properly enable “all” distributions…use the wire services if you're a large company trying to reach a traditional media audience…and use the SEO methodology to reach the consumers and second-tier media. If you're a smaller company trying to reach customers directly, there's probably little reason to use traditional distribution methods…but it certainly can't hurt! Do it all…it's not that hard!
    Great discussion.

  • Anonymous said:

    Good day,
    Somehow, I believe the language is still skewed as to “who” and “where” in terms of benefit and latency. If we adhered to the standard notion of what PR is, then we could safely announce that these are not Press-Releases but rather News-Releases placed upon the net-maps in a fashion similar to shotgun advertising; that is if you are not aligning your efforts with either existing or associative foundations.
    If it is serving an externalized and established effort then we know that there is more proprietary gain in a sense when utilizing such phrases as ‘Direct-2-Anything’. PR Web is a good service but, still heavily drenched in ‘Monikers’ and ‘Sales-Rhetoric’ for it to be anything substantially different from screaming your message off of rooftops. They of course ‘sell’ you increased value? Not a complaint, just a pondering.
    Language is skewed online because of the smoke and mirrors benefit professed by most. This does more harm than good in terms ranging from how to effectively implement strategies that equal well conversion ratios. The balance is evened out by Capitalistic imploring; such as paying for more. So, the consumer is the Publisher and the Publisher is the return customer and the buyer is the hopeful ploy of the consumer.
    Don’t worry; this is not mealy mouthed rhetoric or a stab at anyone in this business. Think of these ‘online’ Publishing companies that offer UPC/ISBN packages; now the thing is that while these are important assets, they place themselves as the Publisher in the Bibliographical data but say something along the lines of “but other than that, it’s your product”.
    Really…..?
    Well, that defeats the purpose of being a Publisher and is a clear-cut example of the problem with the internet and all of this, Web2.0 item.
    In the Brick & Mortar world, we still pay for services rendered; online is the only place where everyone is buying products that give them, the good deal? A message about something you have to offer is only good if the service/product and message is good in the first place. Listings won’t save anyone’s life or career etc. So who get’s the good deal? The Salesmen and the Evangelists; it isn’t rocket science and, once you know these things, you have a better understanding of what you have to do to play both-sides to your advantage.
    They’ll never profess in their Blogs or seminar’s these points of empowering infrastructure. If they did, you would learn too much and not have to be dependent on their ‘proprietary’ IT platforms.
    Or; maybe it is just that this tea I drink is better than all the other teas in the world, I don’t know however; I can’t find the ‘track-back’ button on the box.
    Respectfully & Sincerely,
    – S.s.
    leitung@sekrettscilensce.de
    *

  • Anonymous said:

    S.s.
    There is a theory that if a product or service is any good, you don't have to hype it — you just have to make people aware that it exists and provide enough information to make a credible valuation. In that sense, PR is less a science of persuasion than a science of awareness. It can be practiced ethically and honestly, with a goal of reaching those you can help, not everybody.
    And, yes, would love a sample of that tea…
    STEVE O'KEEFE

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