By Fred Godlash, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire /Los Angeles
Many visitors reach our blog by searching Google for “How much does it cost to write a press release?” which leads them to a 2007 blog post by former Business Wire VP Monika
Maeckle. In the six years since that post, we have heard from PR professionals that have voiced many concerns not just about the cost of writing a release, but how to justify the relevancy of press releases in the age of social media. We decided to revisit the question, using an analytical approach.
So How Much Does it Cost to Write a Press Release?
According to Maeckle, the 2007 price tag for producing a press release was $5000, including hiring staff, research, and any legal costs associated with regulatory compliance. If we establish a baseline of 100 hours of collective work, utilizing any resources needed to collect data, get advice of counsel, and write the release, this will give an average wage that can be used to find the cost of the 2013 release. Note that every person that commented on the 2007 blog stated that a press release can be produced for much less ,and we agree, but it’s fair to say that in 2007, an effective press release could have cost up to $5000.
Before making a fair assessment for 2013, we need to talk about the changes for putting a press release out today. The biggest change, in just 6 years, is the focus from pitching to media outlets to making a press release that is written for everybody. In today’s world the press release may be picked up by anyone that will write about your company – not just traditional media outlets, but bloggers, consumer groups, advocacy groups, social media users and more. Today the relevancy of the content to your target audiences is more important than any other criteria hence the adage “Content is King.” The press release therefore needs to have value to users to get the benefit of people sharing the information.
The SEO benefits traditionally obtained from a press release have also changed significantly. In 2007 SEO professionals distributed press releases for inbound link value and the conversion benefits that existed if a major outlet was to pick up the story. Today, in the wake of Penguin 2.0 and other Google algorithm changes, SEO professionals understand Google’s algorithms value natural language and strong informational content in the release that can be shared with plenty of social signals with built-in value to users. Even for search engines it is clear that sharing is now an important aspect of the release.
The press release has turned from a content delivery system targeting news outlets into a stand-alone news channel for all organizations, made to share content with the world.
So, Seriously, How Much Does it Cost To Write a Press Release?
If the press release produced in 2007 took 100 hours to produce, it is fair to say the 2013 release will take longer through adding multimedia content including video, infographics, and social interaction. Comparing apples to apples, the release would need to include any available resources to make it as competitive as possible today. Hiring staff for keyword optimization, content creation, research, analytics, multimedia, embed codes for tracking, and legal fees for regulatory compliance, it’s fair to say a press release could take an additional 50 hours to produce. Assuming a median rate of $50 per hour, and 150 total hours of collective work, the cost to write a press release today would be $7,500. Once again, obviously it depends on the release but the company is still making a significant investment.
Is it Still Worth it?
We sure think so. In Monica’s 2007 post, she credits the press release as “One of the most effective communication tools on the planet.” In contrast, Tom Foremski wrote in his blog titled Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die! : “Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes.… This madness has to end. It is wasted time and effort by hundreds of thousands of professionals.”
Wasted Effort? According to research presented in a white paper by Business Wire’s Laura Sturaitis and SEO-PR’s Greg Jarboe, a study conducted by SEO-PR in 2011 analyzed a series of press release campaigns by Rutgers Center for Management Development. In the study, the links within press releases were embedded with Google tracking codes and the press releases were sent out over Business Wire’s distribution network. Business Wire’s NewsTrak reports were used for tracking link clicks, and Google Analytics for tracking conversions.
The results were staggering. According to the research, “10 press releases in the campaign had generated a total of 570 visits and 44 leads, Google Analytics reported that tagged links had generated 1,139 visits and had a goal conversion rate of 6.76% (77 leads). Two sources had generated an additional 569 visits and 33 leads.” Those leads resulted in measurable revenue that far exceeded the cost of writing and distributing the releases. One may as well ask, “How much does it cost not to write a press release?”
At the end of the day if your company decides to spend $7,500 or $750 on a soup-to-nuts press release the results may vary but one thing has not changed – it is still about getting your message out to properly targeted audiences, measuring results and adjusting strategies.