Stop Polluting the Web With ‘Crap’ Press Releases


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Writing a press release and sending it out into the wild is a valid way to promote your firm. Done right, you can pick up decent inbound links to your website when online publishers run your press release and link back to you. You also engage in one of the highest forms of content marketing by providing useful, interesting content about your firm.

But “useful” and “interesting” are the keywords here.

The trouble with many press releases these days, as Danny Sullivan points out on Search Engine Land, is that many press releases are “crap,” which means light-years away from useful or interesting, and therefore aren’t newsworthy in the least.

What is a Press Release?

Let’s return to basics for a moment.

A press release is supposed to be newsworthy—as in the communication of current events.

Before the Web, press releases went to local and national media outlets, where it was up to those outlets to decide whether or not to write and publish a story about your firm.

But today you can write any old thing, call it a press release, and publish it online.

Here’s an example:

“Now Offering Truck Accident Representation for the Injured Folks of Bazongo County,” in which you discuss the shining attributes of your firm.

You might call this a press release, but in reality it’s a lousy sales pitch. All you’ve done is offer the same truck accident representation that you offered last month, and the month before that. That’s not a press release. It’s a disguised piece of promotional marketing copy—and it puts a bad taste in people’s mouths.

What Makes for a Crap Press Release

Sullivan’s beef isn’t with the press release itself.

Rather, as he writes: “[Y]ou can get whatever you want published and distributed verbatim into a wide range of news sources.” Sullivan describes PRWeb’s bungle, in which the widely-known online distributor sent out a release about Google having acquired ICOA for $400 million.

Apparently, whoever wrote the press release did it to boost ICOA’s stock price.

But Google never acquired ICOA for $400 million. In fact, it didn’t acquire ICOA at all. And despite PRWeb’s claim that it “follows an internal process designed to maintain the integrity of the releases,” somehow this crap press release made it out into the wild, where it was picked up as newsworthy.

As Sullivan points out, the fake news story about Google showed up in Google search results. It also showed up on multiple “news” sites on Google News.

You Can Smell Crap From a Mile Away

When you sit down to write and distribute a press release, remember that people searching online for something want one thing: relevant search results.

To do this, you must focus on the user.

A press release about your supposed “recent” addition of truck accident cases to your portfolio of legal services might land you on the first page of Google, depending on the keywords used. It will certainly land you in many “news” sites.

Yes, you may get inbound links. And yes, you might actually find clients this way, too.

But it’s not the best long-term strategy.

How to Write a Real Newsworthy Press Release

Given that this has been picked up by the prominent Search Engine Land, it’s likely that this issue won’t go off-radar any time soon. In fact, Web users will continue to lament all the Web pollution, until Google gets around to cleaning it up.

So do yourself a service by writing real press releases. This involves writing a real story. Again, this shouldn’t be a disguised piece of marketing copy. Write a real story about your firm. If you dig hard enough, you’ll find one.

  • Write about adding a partner to your firm, and go into detail about that partner (relatively newsworthy).
  • Write about the million-dollar settlement you obtained for your injured client (truly newsworthy).
  • Write about how one of your associates ran for a seat on the bench—and won (very newsworthy).

Rather than pollute the Web, produce real newsworthy press releases.

This will do a lot more for your firm in the long run.



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  • Yes x 1,000.

    As you might imagine, Lawyerist is on just about every PR agent’s distribution list. I get tons of meaningless and irrelevant crap every week. Like our readers give a shit that so and so just made partner or joined a new practice group, or that your firm just bought a bunch of new copiers. (Okay, I made that last one up.)

    My delete key gets a good workout, and that’s about all these press releases accomplish.

    Maybe I should put them to good use, and start a list of PR companies who send stupid press releases. That way, future law firms will know which ones to avoid.

    • Chris Bradley

      That actually sounds like a great idea. You should “curate” the best PR sources and provide those to firms, as well as the ones to avoid, and, possibly, the pros and cons of a handful.