Let’s get one thing straight about press releases: They are not the primary driver for good public relations. Words on paper does not a relationship make. They are, however, an important component to delivering information to those who wish to cover your organization, event or company. For most, local press releases — those sent to media outlets in a specific geographic boundary or target — are the lifeblood of publicity. The PR 2.0 world kinda forgot about that. Thankfully, readMedia has a solution that serves the local press release target, serves up web and social media-friendly release tools and helps clients appear in online news aggregators like Google News, all for a reasonable price.
In a nutshell, a readMedia customer signs up for a low subscription price (more in a moment), selects the geographic region they are targeting, calls out the media offered from a readMedia-curated database, adds any they see fit to add, enters the press release in the system and the distribution is done. Releases are emailed (or faxed based on the media outlet’s preference … yes, some people apparently still fax) posted to the online news aggregation services and placed in an online newsroom. From there, media can embed the releases using an iFrame mechanism (see below for an example) and grab multimedia or other assets the customer makes available.
The client can then grab a widget of their own release headlines to use on their Facebook page, blog or website, embed the releases wherever they like or share across several social networks. The service is not yet set up to, nor meant to, replace your own website or even media page/news room, but gives you the tools to dress your website up with a newsroom feed and share mechanisms.
Now, I’m sure a few of you who are all social media’d up are saying, “Well, isn’t that what PitchEngine is?” No. PitchEngine doesn’t have a media database attached to it. (Although I caught wind they were announcing one today.) As of Friday on PitchEngine, you build a social media press release. Driving people to it is up to you (though they certainly have a community of readers and social tools baked in as well.) And even if PitchEngine adds a media database back-end to their offering, it won’t likely be built to be hyper-local in focus.
readMedia’s front page sells the service as good for State Agencies, Local Governments or Schools. But it’s as appropriate for local or regional businesses as it is for these type organizations. Still, as a former college public relations director, I can see how this can be mighty useful. (And that’s without the hometown press release program they have … more in a moment.)
I logged in to test the service and picked the Lexington, Ky. metro area, my former primary market when PR director at Georgetown College many moons ago. Turns out to use the readMedia service for that market, I only have to pay $29.00 per month for up to 50 contacts. The maximum fee would be $49.00 per month for 250 contacts and five user accounts. The per DMA, volume pricing automatically makes a cool, Web 2.0 PR service affordable for smaller market businesses.
When I reviewed the media list, I was impressed. They had all the main players, many hometown weeklies in outlying towns like Nicholasville and Winchester and even several local radio stations with news departments. For a company that doesn’t use a large media database company but rather builds and curates the lists themselves (with the help of client feedback, of course) readMedia impressed me.
I got hold of a client’s newsroom as well. The Nathan Littauer Hostpital “news room” is really just a list of release headlines. They have more graphically-driven information positioned on their website and use readMedia as a media utility. All readMedia “news rooms” are like this now, but they tell me a more designed, customizable presentation is on the way soon. Littauer’s most recent news, a story of a citation as being a progressive facility for energy conservation from Thursday, came up (as of Friday) as the top Google News result for “hospital energy conservation,” so the news postings are working well.
The embed-offering of the release is even strong because it’s branded, but in subtle fashion, making it easy to use on any website or blog with little awkwardness in design.
And since everything is digitally-driven, they deliver a nice analytics report that tells you how many folks view, embed and share Â your news, plus where your stats rank against other releases in their system, etc.
So for local-based media relations efforts, readMedia is the real deal. Smart, easy to use, reliable database service that can be customized to your liking as well, all with smart Web 2.0 tools.
And then I looked at their offering for schools. Sure, this type of approach isn’t going to resonate with everyone, but not only are there tens of thousands of education public relations professionals in the U.S. alone, but in certain instances, this could apply beyond education.
readMedia’s pricing for schools is based on your student enrollment and geared toward hometown releases, a program that allows colleges to send press releases to the local newspapers of all their students (for Dean’s List announcements, etc.) regardless of geographic centricity to the institution. A college with a class size of 2,500 can run a hometown release program using readMedia for just $39.00 per month. I would have paid 10 times that amount when I was having to send 800 hometown press releases out each semester at Georgetown.
As you can tell, I really dig readMedia and what they offer. For the price and the service, I don’t know of anyone offering something comparable. The service’s focus on local press release distribution sets them apart. As one readMedia client told Amy Mengel, readMedia’s new inbound marketing director, using the big media database companies for local press release services is like using a 747 to cross the street. readMedia is a targeted service for people who need it. And well worth checking out.
Now, it would be remiss of me to not disclaim the hell out of this review. Press releases are a piece of your public relations arsenal. They should never be sent to media members who do not ask for them, in my opinion. Releases are tools for more information after the reporter has said, “Yes, I’m interested.” Blasting releases to your list should only happen when you have culled that list to ensure the media members on it write about the topic your release covers, their audience is potentially interested in the subject and they know and approve of you putting them on a distribution list.
(I’ll pause while some PR people curse me a few times.)
A press release is not a pitching mechanism. Your personal outreach to the media outlet is. Pitch first. Release if requested. Follow that framework and you’ll see better results.
And if you’re focused on local press release distribution, readMedia can help you get them, too.