We live in an age where anyone, anywhere can hang out a shingle and claim to be good at anything. When it comes to marketing and branding, the field is rife with both credible talent and rip-off artists--making it hard for you to assess the opportunities that may cross your path.

You should particularly watch out for press release mills. They often promise to write a press release about you (or your business) and then syndicate it for promotion on major media. The pitch often goes like this: "Pay us and we will write an article about you and then syndicate it to the likes of NBC and Fox." 

In most cases, these companies are actually alking about a press release that goes out on a general site such as Newswire, pressrelease.com, or some similar service. The cost of creating the press release is usually between $199 and $400.

But these firms often charge upwards of $1,500, just to write a basic press release and then distribute it through these services.

Beware the claims.

Besides the huge upcharge, the problem is that their claims of being pushed out to major media sites are not what they appear to be. For example, these companies may tell you that your release will appear on ABC's website, when it'll really appear on a random ABC affiliate website.

Unfortunately, most of these placements have a disclaimer that the information on the page "is provided by an independent third-party content provider" and that the site "makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith." All of which is to say that being on these sites offers you no credibility or brand boost whatsoever.

These placements also have no SEO value, since they don't show up in Google search engine results. Google can tell when content is posted by a bot, not a human. A news outlet like ABC Gainesville, FL, may have a syndication relationship with one of these news services, and their content may get automatically placed on the site, but it'll be buried. 

The bottom line? For a few hundred dollars you can do this "syndication" yourself. But there's a better alternative: Instead of doing a broadcast press release, try doing a targeted one. 

Try a targeted press release instead.

A targeted press release is one that you email to individual reporters, producers, writers, and bloggers at a list of specific media outlets. It focuses on a specific topic, rather than a general one. For example:

  • The release of a new book.
  • A significant company achievement.
  • A significant individual achievement.
  • An expertise or information that is relevant and timely.
  • The receipt of an award or honor.

Crafting the pitch for this type of press release is more involved and requires gathering the emails (mostly non-public) of producers, writes, journalists, etc. For this reason, most businesses hire the services of a professional writer or PR firm.

The cost of a targeted press release campaign can run anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 a month, depending on your goals, scope and whom you hire. The upside, of course, is that by going with a professional targeted press release, when you do get the big media hits, they are straight up and can go far to build your brand.

So, the next time you're at a conference and someone whispers in your ear, "I've got a great press release opportunity for you," nod politely and move on.