Digital press releases must be one of the most controversial tactics in online PR. Should they differ greatly from press releases aimed at traditional media? Does the digital context require a different distribution strategy? And more fundamentally, has this 112-year-old PR tactic finally had its day?
In the article, we’re going to set out why and how digital press releases can still play an influential role in securing publicity for your brand.
What’s the argument against using press releases in digital campaigns?
A principal argument against using press releases for digital publicity is that in most cases, they don’t secure enough coverage to justify the cost of their production.
The American PR firm SHIFT Communications did some research into the efficacy of digital press releases last year. In a study of 1,092 digital press releases, they found the following average metrics:
- Median clicks: 0
- Median social media shares: 2
- Median number of inbound links to releases: 1
- Median MozTrust score (how trusted a URL is, 0-10 scale): 0
- Median MozRank score (how well ranked a URL is, 0-10 scale): 0
SHIFT’s findings are damning, particularly when considered against the costs of press release production and distribution. Not only did the press releases studied tend not to drive engagement; they also seem unlikely to have provided an SEO benefit, given their low MozTrust and MozRank scores.
The poor performance of the average digital press release makes sense when you consider the fact that PR professionals are starting to outnumber journalists. This point is illustrated by employment figures from the UK, where there were 83,000 registered PR workers in 2016, vs 64,000 who described themselves as journalists or editors in 2015. Of course, the average press release doesn’t attract coverage – there are simply too many of them and not enough journalists.
There is, however, another side to the story…