It might be that you are a new startup with a limited marketing budget (and thus want to avoid the costs), or maybe you feel that yourself or an in-house employee will do a better job of capturing the right tone and feel of your company.
Whatever the motivation, there are pros and cons to both approaches. This content will discuss the advantages of both options, and then (hopefully) help you make the right decision for your company.
Writing Press Releases Yourself
After reading through this blog post, you should have a clear idea of what is required to write a press release. In short, you need:
- A good story.
- Good writing skills (specific to press releases).
There are distinct advantages of writing your own press releases, and I would fully encourage you to do so if you can consistently write well (or have an employee to write for you). If you are unwilling to invest in an employee, or unsure of how eschewing a professional PR service can help you, read through the following reasons:
A professionally written press release can cost you anywhere from $200 to $500. Considering that this is just a 1-page document, which will eventually contain information that you will provide, this seems an exorbitant price.
While press release writing services make every effort to personalize every press release, there is a distinct style for each writer and for each company as well. Personalized ‘style’ of press or media releases. A powerful example of this is Google – check Google Press for a sample of effective personalized press releases can be.
Be warned though. This is not something easy to accomplish. As press releases are terse, 1-page news items with a very big emphasis on content, it is difficult to establish a style.
Practice will help you improve, and if you feel that the identity and image of your company will be better served by writing the press release yourself rather than outsourcing it, then make sure you read many different press releases from other companies to get a feel of how to build your unique style.
Being directly involved with your industry, you are in the best position to highlight the advantages of your ‘news’ to your potential consumers and competitors.
You will be able to provide relevant, current information and your insight into your industry will also help you to pinpoint which news hook will be most successful.
Matching the expertise of a professional press release writer is a difficult task. On the other hand, in-house press release writing, especially if done by an employee, can be ‘good enough’ if due attention is paid to getting the details right.
Professional Press Release Writing
Despite the obvious advantages of writing your own press release, a professional press release service gives you specific, money-valuable benefits:
Professional press release services have the advantage of having working in this field for a lot longer than you – they have written (hopefully) dozens of press releases, and know the industry inside out.
As such, they are well placed to avoid mistakes that beginning press release writers might make and are likely to produce good, reliable press releases.
Of course, there is also a chance that the press release might not be what you are looking for – maybe the writer gets the tone wrong, or underplays certain features that you wanted to give prominence to.
The added experience will also ensure that the writer will be able to judge better whether the information you’ve given him is enough, not enough or too much. In addition, there is the value of having an ‘outside’ perspective. Outsourcing your press release to an independent PR service will:
- Allow them to present the news in a more realistic light.
- Discourage you from making a press release without having effective content.
Be careful about putting too much faith in the press release service to tell you what is right or wrong, however. The responsibility of ensuring that there is enough ‘newsworthy’ information in your press release is yours, not of the service.
A press release can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a day to write, revise and get just right. If you are part of a fast-paced company where you measure your time in hundreds of dollars, then spending that much time on a press release might seem expensive especially since you can get better results by outsourcing the press release.
Do not underestimate the time required to write a press release – for your news to be a full-blown success, every little detail has to be just right.
It’s just a 1-page document. Why does it cost so much?
I’m faced with that question every day. Considering that you will still have to provide a lot of the information to the press release service, it seems ridiculous to pay over $200 (and up to $500) for a press release. But in the end, it’s the results that justify the costs.
A professionally written press release will always have a better chance of being accepted for distribution, and the experience of a professional PR service will serve you will in making your press release successful.
Another factor working in the favor of professional press release services is their ‘package deals’ – a promise to distribute your press release at a discounted rate if you have your press release written by them.
Costs vs. Expertise
I’ve been saying this throughout the content, and I say it again:
Your press release is (almost) worthless without newsworthy information. Keep this point in your mind as you make the choice between writing the press release yourself (using the advice in thisblog post) and outsourcing it to a professional press release service. Where will that newsworthy information come from? From you.
In fact, even if you outsource the press release, the bulk of the information put in the press release will come from you, either as part of the original specifications presented, or from the questions that the writer will ask you to help him write the press release.
So what are you really paying them for?
Their experience – press release writers have considerable, battle-field knowledge of writing press releases – the kind that only comes through time. You are also paying for their language and marketing skills, as writing a press release requires a specific writing style that does not fit into traditional sales copy.
Don’t hire a sales letter writer to write your press release until you are sure they have experience in writing successful press releases.
However, if you are willing to learn and apply the knowledge from this content (or have an employee as a suitable candidate), in-house press releases can be just as successful as those from a PR service. The key is to do two things repeatedly:
- Ensure that you are fully prepared.
- Differentiate between traditional sales copy and press release writing and make the effort to write ‘in a reporting, unbiased style’.
Choosing the Right Service
While this content goes a long way towards helping you write your own press releases, the primary aim is to guide you into preparing the best press release for your company, each and every time.
And sometimes, a company does not have the time, or the technical skills, to dedicate resources towards in-house press release writing.
In such cases, outsourcing your press release requirements becomes necessary. This section, although concise, will help you in picking the right service for your company.
Hiring a PR service
If you are looking to hire a professional press release service, make sure that you complete the following checklist.
- Does the service have a portfolio or a client’s list? Make sure that you can see visible results, and don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
- Compare costs and services between different PR companies to make sure you get the best deal.
- Understand the fine print. Some PR firms may not allow for more than 1 revision, and some also don’t allow for free consultations – which essentially means that if the PR firm decides that your ‘story’ is not newsworthy, you would have ended up paying for nothing.
- Don’t automatically jump for combined packages (press release writing and distribution). Make sure the investment is worth it, and that you see a list of the media contacts (at least their names, if not their contact information) that your press release will be distributed to.
- Themed distributions are very different in impact to generic distributions, so don’t fall into the trap of paying less and actually getting something that is worth nothing to your company.
- If you like the company’s portfolio, try to negotiate a discounted package in return for bringing all your press release business to them. PR firms would normally not refuse long-term business relationships, and the promise of continued business can possibly lower your long-term costs as well.
Hiring a freelance writer
Of course, if the cost is a really serious issue, and you cannot have the press release written in-house (for various reasons) then you may be better served by outsourcing to a freelance writer.
There are several online freelance websites from where you can hire good writers – Elance and RentACoder are the most popular, and most effective.
With freelance writers, there is the advantage of saving on money – a good press release can be written for $100 or less. On the other hand, there is a risk of not getting what you really want.
I’ll not go into the details of how to ensure that you don’t get your money’s worth as there are many ”freelance hiring”guides on the Internet (some good, some bad, and some bad copies of good guides).
Just make sure that you follow the same pattern as you would when hiring a PR service – check their portfolio, and do your best to provide them with complete information.
RentACoder has many safeguards that prevent buyers (like you) from projects that go bad, so trust the system and follow their advice.
However, one bad apple does not make everyone else incompetent. Freelance websites are full of hard-working individuals wanting to earn good money – make sure that you find someone who is capable of doing the job, and then enjoy the benefits of a well-written press release for a fraction of the price.
What is your opinion on DIY vs Professional writers?