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The Free Press Release Experiment

So, I find myself in a bit of a quandary. I’ve released my ebook, Falling, and I want to let everyone know about it, but I have a marketing budget of roughly zero dollars.

Luckily, chance/fortune/providence/a broken condom saw to it that I ended up right here in this time and place where access to bunches and bunches of people was just as easy turning on Torgo (my laptop) and hopping online.

Free is the new black, so why not take advantage?

The traditional way to announce an important piece of news was to launch a press release. Now, many people are satisfied with posting an update on Facebook and Twitter. Press releases are still around however, and so are a growing number of press release distributors (the companies that actually release the press releases to news and media networks).

I’ve written many press releases; first as a worker bee at a public relations agency, and more recently for my own clients as part of my copywriting business, Endeavor Writing.

There are some top tier (means expensive) press release distribution sites like PR Newswire and BusinessWire that PR agencies typically use to cast a huge net. There’s also a growing crop of smaller distributors. These guys don’t have quite the distribution muscle of the big guns, but they’re also within the budget of most small business owners. Some even offer free press release options.

Free, the magic word.

I’ve always been curious about these free options. I’m well aware that they don’t have the distribution power behind them of a paid press release, but do they get any love at all?

No time like the present and a non-existent budget to try it out. Earlier this week, I spent roughly three hours creating and polishing a press release. It wasn’t one of my best, but I am a big believer in the idea that “perfection is the enemy of actually getting stuff done”. Next, it was time to hunt down these free press release sites, upload my little baby and see what happened.

On 01/11/2012, I ended up submitting to five different sites that offer free press release distribution options:

In all cases, these sites offered a free press release option that was ad supported. That means my baby could very well be announcing my book and pushing weight loss diet pills at the same time. It’s not a comforting thought, but I’ve little room to complain.

Most of the programs restricted free press releases to one per week, or even one per month. Understandably, the free press releases were allowed very few extras in the way of category choices, keyword options and image inclusion. Bare bones means bare bones. In fact, only one company – PR Log – allowed me to add an image.

On a side note, PR Log is a free press release site and was, by far, the easiest site to use. Many of the other sites kept hounding me to switch to a paying option throughout the submission process. One company in particular – I-Newswire – was really bad about this.

It took me just under two hours to submit my press release to these five sites, making it a five hour adventure from start to finish. Now we’ll see if my time was well spent. I’ve created Google Alerts for a few terms related to my book. These alerts will pick up any mentions across the web and let me know what type of distribution my press release got. I’ll also be checking the Google Analytics on my book website to see if any traffic was generated from these websites.

All in all, I think I should be able to track the results of this experiment pretty well. I’ll give the press release a couple of days to land, and then I’ll report back the results on this blog.

On a last note, if you are considering performing this same experiment, don’t rush the process. Make sure you develop a compelling press release (Google “How to Write a Press Release” for help). You’ll need to create an account with every press release distribution service that you use. You’ll also find that each company has a slightly different submission process. Some of these sites are not very intuitive. Some of these sites, in fact, seem to take some malicious pleasure in watching you impotently click on every conceivable links searching for where you can actually submit your god damn press release! Read all of the instructions carefully and double check everything before you submit. Once your press release is out, it’s out.

  1. January 16th, 2012 at 19:04 | #1

    Thanks for sharing your experience with this, and your research about the free press release sites. And I hope they’ll work for you. I’d be interested to learn how these press releases work for your (or would work for me…) Do they need to be read? And if your release is flanked by ads for weightloss pills, will people find your press release when looking for weightloss pills, or by googling your keywords?

    • JBennz
      January 19th, 2012 at 03:43 | #2

      You can read all about the results of this experiment in the next blog post, which is now live. Most press release companies review and approve the content before allowing a press release to go out. This is most likely due to copyright concerns. I am not an SEO expert, but my guess is that search engines would pick up on the keywords of the press release, not the ads. The ads would probably be tailored to try and match the topic of the press release.

  2. January 19th, 2012 at 17:25 | #3

    Great information Jessica. Many of my clients are looking for ways to grow their business without breaking the bank. Please keep us posted on your results.

  1. January 19th, 2012 at 03:40 | #1