I can’t tell you the number of clients who ask me, “How many press releases will you send out for me?” Some want us to put out numerous releases a month, using the tiniest of reasons as an excuse to reach out to the media in the hope that their messages will drive sales when read by consumers.

The problem with this strategy is that in order to reach the consumer, you must first interest the editor who holds the key to running your story. They are the gatekeepers. The disconnect for most people is they think writing and distributing numerous press releases chocked full of sales messages will get them the coverage they’re hoping for. And, it’s this primary misunderstanding that leads to the failure of more PR campaigns than I care to think about.

When I speak to groups, the principal message I try to get them to understand is that editors do not want to be viewed as a messenger for those trying to sell things. They see their role as providers of valuable and newsworthy information for their readers. So, if they’re hammered with press releases that have a sales type message, the two most likely results are either no response at all (they delete the release without reading it) or an email in return that reads, “Sounds nice. Let me direct you to our advertising manager.”

In order to get the positive response you desire, you have to provide quality content that’s meaningful to a publication’s audience. For example, press releases that focus on tips for their readers from your position as an expert not only help the journalist do their job better but it also positions you as a valued resource. And in today’s print media world, when so many news organizations are short staffed and few releases even get read, those that provide the gatekeepers with valuable information are the ones that win that coveted print space.

Another misguided strategy I’ve seen (that results from this same disconnect) is using the myriad of free press release distribution services – or even those who charge a nominal fee – to distribute copious press releases to the media. These organizations sell their services with the justification that even if you don’t get a lot of press, their service will get it plenty of Google recognition. My attitude, to be a little uncharacteristically blunt, is “so what?” A Google ranking on a press release that never received news coverage is not a valuable thing. It lacks the third-party verification that comes with legitimate press coverage.

I know at this point that I may sound a bit like a broken record, repeating myself about issues like this over and over again, but it’s only because I hear it over and over again in my daily communications with people seeking PR for themselves or their companies. There is no substitute for coverage from the legitimate media. No SEO, no SEM, no Google-driven press release scheme as a side door to obtain legitimate media works. Well executed PR gets press and nothing matches the power of real media coverage from real media outlets. Anything else just isn’t worth the time or the resources.

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