Content Marketing Strategy

Press Release Writing is Dead: 4 Reasons to Ditch PR

By July 21, 2014 2 Comments

Despite high-costs and low-efficacy, press release writing is an old-school marketing tactic that many agencies still use. It’s a service that I’m regularly asked to provide – and one that I refuse to offer. As these 4 reasons illustrate, press release writing is an ineffective and expensive tactic, and your agency would be better served by business blogging.


4. Press release writing has no direct impact on SEO

Press release writing is most commonly justified as an SEO tool, a technique for earning your agency backlinks from high-PR sites. A decade ago, there would have been some truth in that justification – but no longer. In a discussion over on Google’s Webmaster help forum, Matt Cutts decided to make Google’s policy line on press release writing crystal-clear:

[box style=”1 “]’Note: I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings.’[/box]


In the same way that Google has identified, targeted and penalised prolific guest blogging sites, it’s safe to assume that Cutts and co. have levied a similar charge against press release sites and their distribution networks. Whilst it’s possible that your press release might lead to some indirect SEO benefit (with legitimate bloggers linking to your content), the direct impact of press release writing is effectively nil.


3. Press releases won’t reach your target audience

Which is a more beneficial promotional channel for your agency?

  • A. A social network of opt-in followers, passionate discussion and genuine brand interest.
  • B. A press release website that sends out dozens of unrelated updates each and every day, to a network of disinterested journalists and bought mailing lists.

Press releases are created for journalists and news agencies, and promoted through channels with that audience in mind. Content Marketing 101, your content should be created with your target audience in mind, and promoted through the channels that engage them – and unless you’re selling your services to directly journalists, it’s going to be a struggle to reach your audience.

Best case scenario, an industry-specific publication will pick-up on your story, and share it with an audience that actually cares about your brand. Sounds great, right? Except for the fact that social media promotion achieves the same thing – without the cost of press release writing, or any dilution of your brand message.


2. Press release writing offers no ROI

With no SEO benefit, and virtually no engagement from your target audience, the ROI of press release writing is looking seriously shaky. The case worsens when we factor in the direct costs of creating a press release:

  • Issuing a press release can cost hundreds of pounds. To maximise the chance of a journalist or blogger picking-up on your story, you’ll need to issue your release through an agency with a huge distribution network. Unsurprisingly, the biggest press release agencies also have the biggest price tags – with a single release capable of eating-up huge portions of your marketing budget.
  • With so much money tied-up in issuing a press release, it makes sense to ensure that you’re promoting top-tier content. Most agencies lack the expertise or spare capacity to write engaging, purposeful copy – and hiring a freelance marketing copywriter will be your next cost.

The costs of press release writing are high, but at least they’re quantifiable – unlike the impact of issuing your press release. Measuring the efficacy of press release writing can be a serious struggle, with the correlation between costs, views and engagement vague at the best of times. As HubSpot’s Rachel Sprung explains:

[box style=”1″]‘…it’s pretty hard to say “X amount of people viewed our release, and X amount of journalists decided to write about it/not write about it as a result.’[/box]

…and whilst it may be possible to get a handle on backlinks, reposts and shares, crucial lead-gen and conversion metrics will be much harder to define. No proven efficacy + high costs = poor ROI.


1. Blog posts are the new press release

Press release writing was a viable marketing channel in the pre-social media era. With businesses and brands lacking the promotional channels to share their content, press releases offered a soapbox, a chance to publicise their brand message and increase awareness of their offerings.

Now, with virtually every brand and business operating across social media, there’s no longer a need for press release writing. Business blogs have become the accepted (and popular) mechanism for sharing brand insights, information and news; and social media promotion has become the most effective way to promote it. Consumers can opt-in to the networks they care about, and access useful information in an engaging, personalised way; and brands can promote themselves, and foster engagement and lead-nurturing without the costs of press release writing. In the same way that blog comments are being replaced by social media interaction, press releases have been utterly superseded by business blogging.

[hr style=”3″ margin=”40px 0px 40px 0px”]

I’ll leave you with an apt quote from Frank DeMaria, former PR-guru and CEO of Social360:

 [box style=”1″]‘The simple press release should have died years ago. In my mind they’re dead already.’[/box]

Press releases only continue to exist because there’s an entire industry built off of press release writing. Old school PR and marketing agencies, freelance copywriters and backwards SEO ‘experts’ continue to preach an outdated message, earning their own ROI – at your expense. If you’re looking to boost your agency’s exposure and reach, do yourself a favour – turn to business blogging, and not press release writing.

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Author Ryan

I help SaaS companies grow with content marketing. I also drink Scotch. Sometimes together. CMO & co-founder, Cobloom.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Dave says:

    This has got to be the biggest load of crap I’ve read in a long time. Press releases – as in releasing crafted and sculpted information to the press – is not dead and wont be for a long time and it DOES have SEO benefit, it will reach your target audience because you’ve targeted press that is actually read by your target audience, there is definitely and ROI there as well because you just need to pick up the phone and speak to a journalist to see if they’re interested in your press release, if they are then send it to them – total cost £0, potential return £exponential. Blog posts are not the new press release. The point of a press release is to draw attention to your brand and its website where there wouldn’t otherwise be any attention. Using blog posts as press releases is the digital equivalent of talking to an empty room.

    I don’t know how you do press releases but it sure as hell isn’t dead the way I do them.

    • Ryan says:

      Hi Dave,
      Your comment has inadvertently hit the nail on the head: ‘The point of a press release is to draw attention to your brand and its website where there wouldn’t otherwise be any attention.’ Press releases attempt to manufacture interest in a brand, broadcasting inane and self-aggrandising information for purely self-promotional reasons. There’s no attempt to create genuine value for the reader, and no effort to solve their problems; and as a result, there’s no meaningful engagement from your audience.

      From my professional experience, traditional press releases are an expensive and inefficient marketing tool – but if you are able to earn an ‘exponential’ ROI from their use, I honestly congratulate you. It’s a skill that has obviously eluded me – and if you’re ever inclined to write a blog post explaining how press releases are a viable marketing tool, I’d love to read it!

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