The myth behind press release distribution services

Enter the words, “news release distribution services,” into a Google search, and pages upon pages of companies instantly pop-up, each of them promising that your press releases will reach “500,000 or more global contacts.” They create the illusion that your press release will reach Valhalla and awaken the gods.

Well, as Gershwin’s Porgy sang, “It ain’t necessarily so.” Far from it.

U.S. B-52 dropping bombs over Vietnam.

I write about this issue because issuing press releases continues to be an underpinning tactic, however outdated and ineffective, of many organizations. Those organizations then wonder why they cannot get any media attention. It’s a fool’s game for excuse-making.

Press release distribution services build large databases of people who are or might be in the media. Some still working, many who have been laid-off.

The services prey on PR people and agencies who have not taken the time to learn the handful of reporters who might cover their respective organization or industry sector. Rather, there’s the illusion that to use a distribution service will garner far, far greater media attention. Here’s how it works:

  • A press release is blast emailed, along with thousands of other such releases, to a large database list.
  • Most are caught by email spam filters, like SpamSieve, and never seen by anybody because it’s spam.
  • Some releases are recycled by the special feed aggregator software of some news sites, designed to appear on an obscure page for a few hours to a few days. It’s a way to build brief transient audience for those sites which helps their search engine optimization. But, and this is key, it is NOT news coverage, only an illusion.
  • The distribution service quickly informs the PR people that their release was read by gazillions of people around the world, including such places as the Singapore Times, MSNBC, and the Pocatello Pennysaver News. In truth, it was just snagged along with other press releases by a news site’s aggregator for the purpose of helping to build search engine ranking, nothing more.
  • The truth is that no one ever saw the news release except a couple of people who sent it out, AND, there never was any actual news coverage generated.

Press release distribution services operate on a model similar to that used by the U.S. when the Air Force carpet-bombed Vietnam, using giant B-52s. Create the illusion of gravitas with lots of smoke.  Yet, someone did an analysis of the Air Force’s massive $6-Billion carpet-bombing efforts and determined that it had killed only four (4) enemy soldiers. Stupid is as stupid does.

Here’s a tip – today’s most successful companies and organizations are learning how to make their own news and how to become a news and information resource for an entire industry. It does not involve press releases but rather savvy concepts for competitive leadership in the digital era.