How Much Should You Pay for a Press Release?

A few months ago, I was on the phone with a client at a $10 million company when he casually mentioned that they would be celebrating their 30th anniversary the following week.

“Congratulations!” I said. “Who’s handling your public relations for that?”

Stunned silence.

“Surely you’re not going to miss out on this opportunity for media attention,” I said. “What are you doing to celebrate?”

“We’re having a cake,” he said.

(Downpatrick, April 2010 by Ardfern. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Laugh if you like—I did—but the truth is that many organizations are in the same position when it comes to missing out on newsworthy opportunities for valuable coverage.

Despite the rise of the Internet and the decline of print journalism, a well-conceived and well-executed press release is one of an organization’s most powerful marketing tools. In addition to garnering valuable media attention, a press release can support business development, sales teams, and Inbound marketing. It can attract new partnership and joint venture opportunities, as well as contribute to SEO.

For many companies, the biggest barrier to capitalizing on press releases is logistical—knowing when to write one, allocating the resources to do it, and distributing the press release effectively. All of these challenges can be overcome by outsourcing the task to a marketing or public relations agency, or by hiring a skilled individual internally or on a freelance basis.

When done correctly, outsourcing the press release function can yield significant ROI. But it helps to know just how much you should actually pay for a press release.

Anyone who has looked casually into this question has probably discovered that the answer varies wildly depending on who you ask.

 The answer, according to the Internet.

To understand how much your organization should actually pay for a press release, it’s helpful to understand the factors involved.

In the old days, a press release consisted of a single page of text formatted in a simple, direct manner with the iconic FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE in Times New Roman at top, along with the date and location. Journalism students learned the art of writing press release content in a “reverse pyramid” with critical information at the beginning and less-critical information further down. At bottom, the press release contained a name and phone number for media contacts, and three centered hash marks to indicate the end of the document. 

Click for your complete guide to writing a killer press release.[1]

Today, the single-page format is still the gold standard, though it’s now acceptable to add a logo, letterhead, and other brand elements. Links can be included, depending on the audience. Often, press releases are sent in the body of an email, and may contain images, social media buttons, and multi-media elements.

With so many potential elements, it’s not surprising that the cost can vary widely, but it’s not these bells and whistles that impact pricing most. Instead, it’s quality, scope, and how you pay that matter most.

The core of a great press release continues to be clean, crisp writing that grabs the attention of its intended audience. People often make the mistake of thinking that because a press release is short and to the point, it is easy to write. But, as anyone who builds software or engineers systems understands, simple is hard. 

A well-crafted press release is clear, direct, and communicates a great deal in a very small amount of space. It will be tailored to a specific audience, such as trade magazines, local media, or potential partners. 

At the very low end ($5 on Fiverr, for instance), do not expect much. Save Fiverr for less critical investments, like taunting your old college buddy with a message written in peanuts by a hamster.

For $50, you may be able to find an early-career freelance writer who can prepare something presentable. Be prepared, at this level, to provide the topic and angle for your press release, and to manage the writer closely. You’ll also be responsible for your own distribution. This is a good choice for organizations with more time than money to invest.

For $250 and some trial and error, you can probably hire an experienced, professional writer who will deliver a decent product with minimal fuss. Generally, at this level you will still be responsible for generating the topics and executing on distribution. This is a good choice for an organization that doesn’t mind having their hands in management of the writer, and who has the time for the trial and error in finding the right level of quality. 

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