Friday, June 6, 2008

Web Press Releases

It occurred to me the other day that I haven't written a press release in a couple of months. I think that's the longest I've gone in years without writing one. This wasn't really an accident, though. I haven't sought out any press release writing gigs in awhile because writing Web press releases can be extremely annoying. Here's why:

It's time consuming. I see more people wanting bad press releases than wanting good ones. That means cheap prices and little attention paid to actually getting the release carried. Sorry. I can't do it. It takes me at least a couple of hours to write one, and I end up with a result that is a balance of PR and newsworthiness that I believe has the best chance of being of interest to media outlets. I'm not writing a $5 special because it's a waste of my time and the client's. Of course, that means that $20 for a press release isn't going to cut it and I'm tired of looking for people who can actually pay for their releases.

Clients often don't know what they need. In the online press release world, I have found that many clients sincerely don't have any idea what a press release is or what it should contain. I've had clients tell me that a press release is "just an article in a different format," and other such nonsense. Clients like that really don't understand what goes into one and they don't know what aspects of a press release make it very different from an article. I'm tired of having clients ask me for a press release and then need me to tell them what one is.

Many clients think their topics is incredibly newsworthy, when it isn't. When I was doing online press releases regularly, I only took on releases when I knew I could make them slanted toward the newsworthy. Often that takes a great deal of creative nudging to make it equate to something that people want to read about. I did one a few months ago that publicized an online store that sold one specific type of product. That product is kind of antiquated and has never been newsworthy. However, I took it on because I remembered a news story two weeks before that could propel those products back onto the map.

I wrote the release with that in mind, slanting it toward actual news so that it would get picked up. The client said that the news story I had referenced wasn't "recent enough." Now, keep in mind that this was the only news story about this topic in at least 10 years, and the story had only been two weeks before. Now you may see why I'm soured on Web releases for the moment.

On the other hand, I've never had any problem whatsoever with print press release clients. They listen to my advice, understand my experience and trust my judgment. So far, I've never had one fail to get into the newspaper. Go figure.

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