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Marketing Momentum: Tools and Tips for Distributing News Releases

By Katrina Olson

Founder of modern public relations Ivy Lee reportedly sent the first news release to the New York Times in response to the 1906 Pennsylvania Railroad train wreck that claimed 50 lives. Although originally intended just for the media, today’s PR practitioners send them to whomever they want in a variety of formats including:

  • E-mail as a message or an attachment
  • Hard copy/mail
  • Website (especially for multimedia news releases)
  • CDs, DVDs or flash drives (especially for multimedia news releases)
  • Satellite
  • 3-D boxes, tubes, packages, Champagne bottles

Of course, how you distribute your news release may be dictated by your budget. But most importantly, you should send it to those who most need the information. Possible recipients include:

  • Local/regional media
  • National media
  • Specialized media (electrical, automotive, industrial, healthcare, agricultural)
  • Internal audiences like customers, vendors, members or shareholders

Not every news release should (necessarily) go to the same list. For example, if you’re announcing something specific to the industrial market, include industrial media and trade publications. However, if you’re releasing information relevant to the retail market, like a lighting showroom grand opening, consider more consumer-focused media.

Paid Distribution Services

Fee-based news release services including BusinessWire.com, PRNewswire.com, Marketwire.com and Cision.com. They will send your news release to major U.S. dailies plus AP, Dow-Jones, Bloomberg, Reuters and others—or to markets you specify.

These services maintain exhaustive and current databases of news media and key influencers. You can distribute your news release by geographic area, area of interest or industry. Of course, they can’t guarantee your news release will be published or even reviewed by a journalist; that’s on you to write a quality news release with a relevant and compelling headline.

Paid services also provide for automatic placement of stories in online blogs, newsletters and special interest outlets depending on the industry, topic and location. Some even offer metadata editing, social media posting, grammar checking and analytics. Fee-based services also offer greater credibility than a free service or an individual company.

Using a paid service to distribute your news release with all the bells and whistles can cost up to $1,000—or as little as $129 with options like PRNewswire’s iReach. PRWeb also offers a robust service option for around $200. Both offer activity and SEO reporting.

Free Distribution Services

You might consider using a free news release service instead of, or in addition to, a fee-based service. While they don’t have the cache of a fee-based service, free services can build on keywords, links, tags and metatags, which all help build traffic to your website and enhance your website’s rank.

Using a free service can also enhance your company’s reputation by moving up the news release’s positive information in search results for your company while pushing down any negative comments and posts. Some free distribution services you may want to consider are:

Note: These services are listed in alphabetical order. I am not endorsing or recommending any of them, but simply providing a starting point for you to research your options and make your own decision.

DIY News Releases

When distributing a news release yourself, follow these guidelines to increase your chance of garnering coverage.

  • Always send the news release to a specific person, by name.
  • Send only one copy to each media outlet (e.g. TV station, newspaper, magazine).
  • Find out whether your contact prefers email or hard copy news releases.
  • Send the news release 10 days before an event for print and broadcast media, and three to six months prior to an event for magazines, depending on their publication deadlines and editorial schedules.
  • Call to follow up only if you know the media contact, otherwise it might be seen as badgering.
  • Release the news on your website immediately before or at the same time it’s released in the media.
  • Archive old news releases on your website.

If you’re casting a broader, national net with your news release, consider using a fee-based or free news release distribution service. 

Measuring Effectiveness

No matter how you distribute your news release, you’ll want to track placements, reach and effectiveness. Most paid services and some free ones offer tracking of news releases published by media outlets, monitor conversations about the subject matter or company, and/or measure reach and reader sentiment. This feedback can help you determine which media are most likely to run your stories in the future and direct your media planning.

Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at katrina@katrinaolson.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.


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