Gone are the days of sending company news to members of the press by mail or fax and praying for a response. The internet has breathed new life into--and improved results from--press releases.
Online press releases allow you to draw the interest of journalists actively hunting for new story ideas. They've opted in to newswire services that send press releases by e-mail, and they search newswire sites daily. One press release can be distributed to tens of thousands of writers, reporters, media outlets and news-rooms. You can get interview requests an hour after your press release is sent, and then again months later, because it's indexed by newswire service sites and search engines.
For several hundred dollars, you can send out a 400-word press release to a national audience through newswire services including Business Wire, PR Newswire, PR Web and U.S. Newswire. There are also free press-release posting or distribution opportunities through ArriveNet, PR Leap and PR Web. So why pay? Because you likely won't get the reach you will with fee-based services. For example, by paying a "contribution," you'll get higher placement in PR Web's outbound newsfeeds as well as guaranteed placement in Google News and Yahoo! News.
If your marketing budget is stretched thin, even a limited press-release distribution for free is better than none at all. If you've got the funds, use fee-based newswire services for your hot stories and free ones for "housekeeping" types of announcements (like winning a special award). Your attention-grabbing press releases should answer the questions, Who cares? and Why is this important now? The first question should deter you from writing self-promotional content, which disengages press members. For the second question, if you can't tie your press release into a current event, you could publish statistics from a recent report or discuss new industry trends. An educational and time-sensitive press release that reads more like an article is ready for media attention.