Press Release Distribution Dos & Don’ts

Normally we focus on writing here. And recently I’ve shared a lot of information about writing press releases for your business. But what happens after you write your release (or hire a professional to write it for you)? Then it’s time to focus on press release distribution.

While I write press releases for clients, I no longer run a full-service PR firm, so I don’t take on distribution. So instead, I want to go over some of the basics with you if you opt to do this yourself. Let’s explore some important dos and don’ts that can increase your chances of media coverage and help you avoid getting in hot water with journalists.

4 Dos for Press Release Distribution

If you want earned media (coverage you aren’t paying publications for), you have to think beyond yourself. Your news has to be about consumers of the media you’re targeting.

But having something interesting and newsworthy to say isn’t enough. You have to get your press release into the hands of the right people. Here are some tips to help you do that.

1. DO use a well-targeted media list.

Not all of your press release distribution has to be manual. But you should be building relationships with key journalists and bloggers who cover your industry.

As you build those relationships, reach out directly to those people when you have news you feel would be a good fit for their outlet. You can’t expect them to stumble across your release just because you’ve put it out over a newswire.

2. DO put your press release online.

Those one-on-one relationships aside, you should still put your press release online.

While you’re manually targeting key media outlets, there are countless smaller publications and blogs that could amplify your story’s reach. But chances are, you don’t know most of them yet.

Putting your press release online through a distribution service makes it possible for people you would never think to pitch to find your story and cover your news.

3. DO include relevant media.

Would high-resolution photos be appropriate if a journalist wanted to pick up your story? Do you have a video that provides more background? Include these things in some way, even if it’s just a link where they can be accessed or downloaded.

Not all journalists will bother to contact you to see if you have these things available. But if you provide them when you initially distribute your press release, you’re giving those reporters what they need to do their job. The easier you make things on them, the more valuable a resource you are.

4. DO experiment with distribution times.

It makes sense that you’d want to put your news out on a weekday morning, getting in front of journalists on days they’re working, and before everyone else. Right?

Here’s the thing about that — everyone else is thinking the same way. So if you aren’t getting coverage when you put press releases out at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday mornings, try releasing your next one in the afternoon or (*gasp*) over the weekend.

Sure, some in the media might not see your news then. But for those who do, you’ll stand out rather than being just one of dozens of stories they’re bombarded with during more popular press release distribution times.

3 Don’ts for Press Release Distribution

Even a perfectly-written press release can fall short if you screw up its distribution. Here are some big — and all too common — mistakes. Speaking as both a PR professional and a writer who can receive dozens of press releases every month, pretty please, don’t do these three things.

1. DON’T demand immediate action.

I used to run a fairly well-known regional music publication where I constantly received press releases from artists, record labels, and venues. One time I received a press release from a manager of one of those venues. It was well-tailored — an event press release / media advisory with a nicely-written personalized invitation.

They were hoping I’d write up a spotlight on them, and they wanted me to check the place out during an event with some of the biggest local acts performing. Normally I’d be all for that. It was perfectly-handled actually.

But there was one problem.

The email came in on an early Friday afternoon. And they wanted someone there that evening.

I didn’t have any contributors in that area I could assign this to, especially last-minute. So it would have fallen on me. And I still had to finish work for that day. I’d have to put myself together. I’d need to squeeze in a bit of background research. And I’d need to make a two-hour trip to get there. Not happening.

That was back in my somewhat more polite days, so after telling the manager he was delusional, I said I’d consider setting something up another time, but not tied to that event. He understood. We actually became friends, and I even hosted a couple of charity shows there with my own clients down the road.

But that’s very much an exception.

Most journalists would be pissed off (if they didn’t immediately delete it or die of laughter first). Don’t be “that guy” who thinks your news is “drop everything and fawn all over us” good.

I promise you. It’s not.

Always respect journalists’ time. Your pitch itself is already an intrusion on it.

2. DON’T send press releases to people who don’t want them.

Okay. So this is actually tricky. No journalist wants crap press releases littering their inbox. So don’t spam things to overly-generic lists hoping for a few bites.

But let’s assume you’re a semi-responsible individual. Your release itself rocks. And you have a well-targeted media list. You still might get in trouble with some reporters (and especially bloggers who will sometimes “out” you because they can rant publicly at a moment’s notice — not the kind of coverage you’re looking for).

When you build your media list, it’s not enough to know someone covers your industry. Find out if they actually accept news releases before you add their contact information to your pitch list. Many do. Some do not. At the very least, read their contact page carefully. If they specifically say they don’t accept press releases, don’t send them one. Ever. Find another way to connect if you want a relationship with that person or the outlet they write for.

3. DON’T post your release to dozens of free distribution sites.

This is an old school SEO press release distribution tactic. Some people still promote this service. If you’re thinking about hiring someone to mass-submit your news release to dozens, or hundreds, of distribution websites for quick backlinks, don’t. They’re screwing you over.

I won’t go into this in detail because I already did when talking about SEO press releases, but the real value isn’t in links from distribution sites. It’s in the links you get from legitimate media outlets, or blogs, that run your story. Google doesn’t give press release distribution site links much weight anymore because they were being spammed for years. So don’t waste your time (or your money hiring someone to do this).

If you use a press release distribution service, one is enough. Make it a premium one that can reach the kinds of media outlets you’re seeking coverage from. If you want it online elsewhere so you can promote it via social media, put it on your own website as well.

Look. These are far from the only dos and don’ts you should be following. But they’re some of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to press release distribution.

You want to stand out because of your news itself. You don’t want to stand out by being that jerk who wasted a journalist’s time, spammed a blogger you hoped to build a relationship with, or published too many garbage releases for SEO’s sake to be missed.

Get on the wrong side of journalists once, and you could stay there even if you try to clean up your act later.

Feeling ready to distribute a press release? You need to have it written first? Get in touch and let a professional writer (and experienced PR pro) handle it for you.

Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer, professional blogger, consultant, and publisher.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and more than 20 years' experience in marketing and PR, specializing in digital PR and new media (with significant experience in social media, online marketing, SEO, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience, including web development, mostly in the WordPress environment.

In addition to offering client services, Jenn also developed and runs numerous online publications including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

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