Are Press Releases a Waste of Time?

If you fear your press releases are getting stuck in the round file, try something new: Write the article yourself.
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the January 2002 issue of Subscribe »

I was sending press releases all summer...and getting no response. I changed my approach, and now I have my own weekly live radio show starting this month.

Wouldn't it be great if you had to keep customers waiting at your door because you were too busy? I think it's every entrepreneur's dream to have qualified buyers ringing the phone off the hook. Attracting good customers is always a better strategy than finding good customers; the question is, How is that done? For many businesspeople, the use of a creative press release has been a staple of any low-cost marketing campaign. Media exposure and publicity is the most cost-effective way to market your products and services. More important, it helps build credibility because your audience is more likely to trust an independent third party like an editor, broadcaster, columnist or reporter.

I added a press release component to my marketing mix last spring. These releases reflected on me personally, so I really wanted to make sure the campaign was professionally done. I did a few things upfront to make sure the campaign worked. I subscribed to a well-known national media list that was updated each quarter. I did my research and learned how to write newsworthy releases, followed the standard format and then started sending out my releases.


The news was my "VirtualSelling Radio," an Internet radio station for entrepreneurs and small-business professionals. I crafted five different press releases and sent them to the entire list approximately six weeks apart starting in June. The list I purchased is accurate and updated quarterly. I had strong headlines and titles in each of the releases, and they were newsworthy, not hyped sales pitches. I made sure that every release was formatted properly and contained all my contact information. Yet my campaign didn't work!

I got one phone call in November. A sales rep from a magazine that received the press release called to sell me space in their magazine. Why was my campaign so unsuccessful? I had the last three releases checked out by two public relations firms before they were sent out to make sure I was doing things properly. I did everything by the book and still didn't get any response-until I decided to do something differently: I broke the "no call" rule.

In all my research on writing and sending press releases, this rule is the one thing that's stood out the most. Most articles and books advise against calling the media or publication that you're sending releases to. I broke the rule and started calling the editors, broadcasters, columnists and reporters in my media database last month. But I didn't ask them if they got my press release. Instead, knowing that reporters, editors and producers are always looking for good content, I offered to create content for them.

You can do the same for yourself. Follow these steps to create your own publicity:

  • Focus your list. Pick only the radio/TV stations, newspapers, magazines and trade journals that fit your target market. Which of these publications would you like to contribute to? Does their audience fit your target market?
  • Leverage your existing content. If you're already writing articles, producing audio or video content, doing live workshops, or are an expert in a particular field, see how that knowledge or expertise can be used in a different format.
  • Get to know a local editor, producer or reporter. Ask if you can conduct an interview. Find out what they actually do when they're at work. What are the three things they like and dislike and the types of stories they cover? Treat it as a real interview, and get a behind-the-scenes view of what their job really entails.
  • Create a content stream. Decide on a stream of news or information that you can provide to them on a regular basis. Propose a weekly/monthly/quarterly article that you would write. Become an on-call expert for your target publications and media outlets.

Unfortunately, the majority of what the media receives each week gets filed. With an average of several hundred press releases being sent to them each week, it's hard to break through the noise. If you're serious about publicity and want to improve your bottom line start to think outside of the box. Take this opportunity to create your own publicity.

James Maduk is one of North America's leading sales speakers. He is the host of the "Small Business Heroes" radio show, creator and publisher of more than 80 online sales training courses, and author of 52 Secrets Your Mom Never Taught You About Selling. You can reach James at (613) 825-0651 or visit his Web site at


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