I’ve been writing recently about press release marketing as a supplement to guest posting. They both serve similar purposes, but take different avenues and find different hosts. The end result is the same goal, of course: getting your name and information in front of the eyes of the people, building up a reputation, and gaining publicity. There are plenty of differences, but let’s stick with press releases for the moment.
One of the biggest names in press release marketing is PRWeb. PRWeb (also known as Cision) is one of the largest and oldest systems for press release marketing available. They ostensibly help with a variety of facets of press release marketing, all for a price. So what are their services, and are they worth the money?
PRWeb is a platform where you can create and distribute press releases, and track their performance while you’re at it. Anyone can write a press release, and anyone can distribute one to varying degrees of success, and anyone can track performance through some clever use of Google analytics and UTM tracking. So what makes PRWeb stand out?
Primarily, the fact that everything is together in one package is what makes it theoretically worthwhile. They have a press release creation system that is a bit more robust than just a Word document, and their distribution platform has connections with influencers and powerful sites throughout a variety of different industries.
PRWeb provides four different packages, at least for new users. They have a little disclaimer, so I imagine returning users have slightly different price points. If anyone can confirm, please let me know.
The first package is the Web Access package, and will cost you $99 per press release. This package comes with placement on PRWeb.com in their press release section. They also post you to 10 industry news feeds and 10 regional news feeds, presumably of your choice from a list they’re linked to. They allow you to attach files – like a detailed PDF or a press kit – to your press release, and they automatically post to Twitter. That’s it!
For $100, it’s not really all that much. Being posted to PRWeb is the absolute baseline, and it’s frankly not a huge boon. It’s a free link, presumably nofollowed, from a relatively high positioned site, but that’s about it. The news feeds and Twitter posts aren’t really that high value, which is also why they don’t scale up or get better for the higher package levels.
The second package is the Web Share package and will cost you almost double, at $189 per press release. This has all of the same benefits as the Web Access package, with some additional features. You get your press release “sent to major search engines.” You get placement on “major news sites.” You get media subscribers, presumably to your posting on PRWeb itself. You also get a quote call out in your press release itself.
Are any of these of value? I would say no. Search engine submission is one of the oldest SEO scams in the book. Both Google and Bing have very prevalent search spiders to do the crawling work for them. There’s no submission form, internal or external, so there’s no real way for a site to promise search engine submission and be giving you anything of value whatsoever.
On the other hand, having placement on major news sites might be valuable. The only question is, which news sites? I’ve seen mention of the Associated Press, CNN, and Google News as options, which can be quite valuable. The fact that they don’t specify or disclose means you’re paying for placement on sites you don’t know, and it might not be relevant or useful to you. It’s a gamble, and for nearly $200, I’m not sure I would take that gamble.
The third package is the Web Influence package, and bumps the price up to $289 per press release, which is quite a significant jump. So what do you get for that extra hundred dollars?
In addition to all of the other benefits of the previous package, Web Influence adds on publication to a single media list, placement on “premium websites” that they list examples as Scottrade and StreetInsider, and placement on local news sites. As far as features for putting your press release together, you get the ability to add social bookmarks, text links, and a “search optimized image.” This pretty much just means an image with a caption and some basic meta data. You also get a final extra, next day distribution, so you bypass the longer queue of the cheaper packages and get priority attention.
There’s only one thing that makes this package more worthwhile. That is the priority distribution. Press release marketing is very time-sensitive, and if you don’t have your message in front of the right people at the right time, you’re going to lose out on a lot of potential attention. Priority distribution ensures that you end up in front of people right when you want to.
On the other hand, some things inspire less confidence. A search optimized image isn’t really a big deal for a press release, so touting it as a perk is kind of odd. More importantly, though, while they list specific sites, there are some issues. StreetInsider allows you to post your press release yourself, and it only costs $149. Sure, you get more access to tools and other channels with PRWeb, but this $149 value is eating up a good chunk of what you’re paying for.
Scottrade, meanwhile, is defunct. It was purchased by TD Ameritrade, which has a blog of its own, but doesn’t seem to post press releases all that often. It’s also focused on financial content, which means outside of that niche, you won’t get value from it.
I assume, of course, that there are other sites on their list of distribution targets. However, I never like it when a company leaves crucial information out of date on their product pages. This is the page PRWeb is using to try to convince you to buy a package, and they’re promoting it with placement on a website that no longer exists. How much confidence does that inspire in you? For me, not that much.
The fourth package is the Web Power package, and costs you another hundred dollar upgrade, at $389 per press release. It has all of the same benefits and “benefits” as the previous packages.
The additional benefits include two media lists instead of one, promotion via Zemanta, and embedded video. That’s it!
Now, video can be a very potent marketing tool. The problem I have here is two-fold. First of all, they make no mention of tools to help you produce a video. You can embed one in your press release, sure, but you still need to go through the hassle and expense of making a video in the first place. That can be time consuming and expensive. Of course, it’s entirely possible that you’re already making a video on the same topic as your press release, so it’s not necessarily an additional expense beyond what you would normally spend. That said, you don’t always need the video to be embedded; a link to a YouTube video can often be just fine.
The second problem I have is that it’s an additional hundred bucks for basically nothing. Embedding a video in a press release is not, to me, worth a hundo. You can feel free to try it out, but I don’t think it’s going to be worth very much.
As for the promotion via Zemanta, well, what is Zemanta? If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s simply a native advertising platform, similar to sites like Taboola and Outbrain. Even if you’re focusing that whole extra $100 on Zemanta advertising, it’s still just some pretty basic advertising.
Worse, as you probably know, creating copy for a press release is very different from copy for an ad. Simply plugging your press release into native advertising is probably not going to make much of a difference. You can take that $100 and go to Facebook or AdWords and make much more effective ads.
Interestingly, PRWeb shows several features in their table of features that are not checked as part of any package. Distribution via the Associated Press, distribution to Business Industry Direct, and a custom URL are all additional options that no package includes. In fact, distribution via the Associated Press is thus eliminated from that previous tier package, and makes that package worse by its presence.
There are some features PRWeb lists on the individual product packages that don’t show up in the comparison. For the Web Power package, for example, it tells you that you can send your list to two specific industry journalist lists, you can get proofreading from their editorial staff, you can be shared through Sovrn’s content network – another ad network – and you’re syndicated to their network of sites.
Of course, they also mention that priority distribution is not a free inclusion with the top-level plan, it’s an additional $99 upsell. That’s pretty incredible given that they listed as a feature of their top paid plans. All in all, if you want their top-level plan, you need to spend $488. Per press release. And that’s not all! They have even more upsells. For $40 per star you can get priority placement in the star-sorted PRWeb.com press release feed. For an additional $200 per list, you can be added to email lists for specific industry feeds. You can also be posted to specific influencer Twitter feeds – to, not on – for $99. All determined, not by you, but by their editorial staff.
So to have absolutely everything, you’re paying practically $1,000 per press release. Of course, you can pick and choose what you actually want to pay for, and you’re never going to choose the full everything unless you have money to burn and want to build a case study.
Are PRWeb Press Releases Worthwhile?
Going back to the initial subject, I have to make a value judgment. What does Cision / PRWeb get you, and are you paying a reasonable fee for it?
First up, you get access to their tools for creating press releases. I don’t figure these tools are anything really special. Anyone with a word processor can make a perfectly serviceable press release, and there are infinite templates available online to get you started.
At higher levels, you get proofreading by the PRWeb editorial staff. That’s valuable, but you can also pay for it on Fiverr or get a particularly English-inclined friend to do the reading for you. It’s not a thousand-dollar feature.
Distribution to various journalists, influencers, and lists is potentially valuable, but a lot depends on whether or not you’re actually going to relevant locations. Do they send your press release to a specific editor at Forbes, or just to the general Forbes tip line? It’s entirely possible that their lists of journalists are largely email lists scraped from various sites contact pages, meaning you’ll end up in a lot of spam boxes or largely ignored tip boxes.
There are a few specific placements mentioned, notably on PRWeb itself, Cision,and on StreetInsider. These are potentially valuable, but again, not THAT valuable. I wouldn’t pay a grand for them. Placement directly on PRWeb is harsh, too, because there are a lot of people posting already, so you can easily be lost in the shuffle. Paying for the upsells can help, but then you’re paying even more for placement on a site you’re already getting.
Frankly, I don’t think anything more than the $200 plan is worthwhile, at best. Almost everything you get can be replicated with a little legwork, and more importantly, can be repeated for a lower cost in the future. Once you’ve done the legwork and built connections once, you don’t need to do it all again, whereas you have to pay this price for PRWeb promotion for every release, without discounts for repeat customers. It’s just too much for what may or may not even gather you any attention.