The statistical case against press releases

The author’s company looked at metrics for 1,000-plus releases and found discouraging ROI. Here are the numbers behind the latest obituary for the longstanding practice.

What occurs a thousand times a day but is rarely noticed?

The answer: Public relations professionals publish a press release.

Shift Communications delved into the raw Google News database of millions of news stories per year to extract just press releases. What we found amazed (but didn’t surprise) us.

Last month, for the first time in almost three years, PR professionals cranked out an average of 1,092 press releases per day. As of this writing, PR professionals have generated 236,356 press releases in 2016.

That batch of 1,092 press releases per day is an enormous flood of news to create, and press releases are not inexpensive. Although some wire services offer “low-cost” press releases, many charge from $200 to $1,200 per release. Consider what 236,356 press releases annually have cost companies and agencies: somewhere between $47 million and $283 million this year.

Do press releases work?

Let’s look at some of the median content metrics around these releases.

We extracted a random sample of 1,052 releases from 2016 and scanned them for key content metrics. Out of these releases:

  • The median number of clicks: 0
  • The median number of social media shares: 2
  • The median number of inbound links to releases: 1
  • The median MozTrust score (how trusted a URL is, 0-10 scale): 0
  • The median MozRank score (how well ranked a URL is, 0-10 scale): 0

No one is sharing our press releases, other than us.

No one is clicking on them.

Because Google devalued press release distribution sites a few years ago, press releases are untrusted and therefore don’t pass along any SEO authority.

Spending $200 to $1,200 is a lot for a piece of content that gets shared, doesn’t engage the audience and offers no SEO value. For the same $200, you could hire a blogger or two to create original, unique content on your website or owned social media properties and receive more benefit.

Conclusion: Stop sending press releases

Unless you have regulatory reasons to do so, there’s no longer a reason to send out press releases. No one is reading them, no one is engaging with them, and they offer no search marketing benefit to you. You’re almost certainly getting no ROI from your spending, and you could allocate that money elsewhere, such as social media content amplification, syndication or original content creation.

Christopher Penn is vice president of marketing technology at Shift Communications. A version of this article originally appeared on the Shift Communications blog.

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Topics: PR

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