PR firms and the link-less news release...

PR firms and the link-less news release...

Summary: I get a lot of email pitches and other communications from PR firms. Yet the hyperlink - the most basic element of digital docs -- is rare in those documents. Why?

TOPICS: Browser

I used to be puzzled about why PR people are so miserly about including links into their news releases and emails. Even those PR people that know that they should...often don't.

Yet links are a key Internet currency. Why don't they understand this?!

And I'm fed up of adding links to my posts about their clients and other relevant material because they are absent from the background materials.

I've come to the conclusion that since PR people aren't putting links into their communications then I shouldn't need to put those links into my posts. Clearly, if it were important to them, then the links would be there in the source material.

I used to be puzzled about this behavior but now I think I know why: The reason for the lack of the hyperlink -- the most fundamental element in a digital document -- is that PR people don't get any credit for it.

PR people are paid for story placement -- which is just one side of the story. The SEO benefits from a well-linked story are worth much more.

A link from high-ranked news site will provide far more than a momentary boost in traffic to a company's web site. It provides a high degree of trust that Google uses to determine rankings in key search results.

This is much much more valuable than the actual news or feature story itself because it affects Google's ranking of the company web site for a very long time.

But if the links are missing then the search engine optimization (SEO) benefits from the story will be missing too.

The future will be different. Savvy companies will make sure that their PR and SEO strategies are complimentary and they will ask PR firms to take on a larger SEO role.

However, this will be tricky for many PR firms because they don't understand basic SEO techniques -- as can be seen by the lack of links in their materials.

Topic: Browser

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  • PR....

    is mostly, and subtly, deceptive, unfortunately. I do not think they want to provide links, so that it is more difficult for you to verify the information for yourself.

    They want you to accept their message in full, without question.

    If all they did was disseminate the full and unvarnished truth, they could probably fire most of their staff.

    Being in PR is like being a politician: "How can we best sell this to the voters/consumers?"

    Sorry, but it is hard not to be cynical in these matters. I have been watching PR for a LONG time.
    • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

      @Economister Cynicism is a needed but I thnk most of the time PR people aren't loking to spin something good out of something evil, they merely want to put their client in the best light, like putting on a suit of nice clothes and brushing your hair. There's nothing wrong in that.
    • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

      Thanks so much! <a href="">replica hermes</a>
  • Oh brother, have you hit it on the head

    <a href="">I'm an SEO Consultant and my company does search engine optimization</a>. And we try repeatedly to get PR firms to work with us, with the pitch being that we can make them even better at what they do.

    We're even clear and careful to point out that we'll do so "under cover"; their clients will believe they did the work without outside help. But cracking this market is unbelievably difficult.

    And that's for what I've come to believe is exactly the reason you point out; PR companies don't seem to understand the coin of their own realm well enough to get on board.

    I hope for their sake they figure this out soon; otherwise, SEO firms are going to just bypass them, as a matter of survival.
  • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

    We have made a commitment to include hyperlinks and direct links in all of our official press releases. We also meet with our clients early on to determine what key words will drive traffic to their sites. It's certainly an education process for some clients - others are looking for our guidance and leadership, and we aim to please. Keywords, links, hyper-links, SEO - they used to be foreign words in PR. Now they need to be used in everyday communication.
  • Good perspective, but one point needs clarification ...

    Tom - While I appreciate your perspective, and certainly understand your frustration regarding a perceived lack of links in the information, fact sheets, etc. you receive from public relations professionals, I want to clear up one very important point you make in your post: PR people are NOT paid for story placement. What you are describing there is a component of a publicist's job, and publicity is a small specialty of public relations. To confound the two and attempt to degrade PR's value to businesses and the public by stating that PR professionals are paid merely for their abilities to place stories is both misinformed and slightly insulting. The fact is, PR professionals do far more than "story placement." They help build public trust, inform the public and key stakeholders, bridge the gap between executives/businesses and their key audiences, act as a strategic and objective counsel for key business decisions, among many other important aspects of their jobs, many of which have nothing at all to do with "story placement."

    As for your broader point regarding links in materials and info sent by PR professionals, that's a very valid point and one that I absolutely agree with you should be addressed. While I don't want to speak for your specific examples, since those are unique to your experiences, I think you're right in noting that the future of PR will see a tremendous emphasis placed by businesses on blending traditional and new strategies and tactics, such as effective media relations with SEO. And that will absolutely require the successful PR professional to be wise and savvy with their use of SEO-based tactics, such as linking within text, writing SEO-friendly content and headlines, etc.

    If we do that, the PR profession will continue to rise in its value to businesses and the public. But as you rightly note, more needs to be done ? now ? to ensure the entire profession is on board with this new reality.

    Keith Trivitt
    Associate Director of Public Relations
    Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
    • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

      @KeithTrivitt My apologies for hitting on a sensitive issue. I did not mean to imply that PR is soley about story placement I know it is about much more. But I am, and continue to be puzzled by PR's repeated failure to embrace the hyperlink, as I said, the most fundamental element of today's digital communications. This is hardly a new develoment. My rant on this issue five years ago, "Die, Press Release Die! Die! Die!, pointed out the lack of hyperlinks and today the situation is not much better.

      Why does the PR profession continue to disregard the reality of today's business and client needs? It's hardly a "new reality" as you say but has been a reality for many years.
      • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

        @foremski Keith hit the nail on the head regarding an agency and how they are compensated. The ?hit? or coverage that is secured is the goal of our pitches but there is much more that goes into getting that coverage or hit for our clients. Now are we praised or sometimes ?scolded? for not having as many hits as the next company ? yes, but that is from organizations that don?t have that much of a vision or strategic game plan in place. If you want an agency to work for you ? you need to take their advice and hear their viewpoints and direction on messaging, targets, events, etc. (and including easy to grasp hyperlinks is another one!)

        Now being on the PR side, I do not see what journalists such as yourself receive on a daily basis ? but one of the things we promote here is more information. We want to make sure that all questions are answered and that the validation is crystal clear ? so that we don?t have to ?spin? it as referenced earlier. And in my opinion, outside agencies (PR, ad, marketing services) are going to be much more valuable in 2011 to their clients simply due to the ever increasing role and importance of brand/reputation management and marketing versus the competition. With the continued development of new community/social focused sites (ZDNet as an example), the resources found within an agency will be highly sought after. Also, the internal discussions and planning around how to distribute newly created content and to whom will be another key component. With the speed that news outlets and blogs are moving at today, agencies need to have the information in front of their key folks at all times ? and that includes the freelancers, bloggers and editors!
      • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

        @foremski I appreciate your classy reply (and retweet of my rebuttal on behalf of PRSA), as well as you taking the time to further explain your points. Clearly, you get the value of PR, but like some others, you feel that there are areas in which PR pros can and should do more to provide more value for those they frequently interact with (such as journalists, like yourself, the public, clients, etc.). And I couldn't agree with you more.

        The final point you make in your comment about how you feel the PR profession continues to disregard the realities of today's business and client needs was a big factor in PRSA creating "The Business Case for Public Relations" (, which launched in October 2009. Not only is the "Business Case" and its resources meant to better educate and inform the business community about the value of PR, but just as importantly, it offers professionals valuable examples, case studies and best practices for successful PR in the digital age.

        Again, I really appreciate your classy response. It's also very encouraging to see your post and the subsequent comments take on such a passionate and interesting perspective.

        Keith Trivitt
        Associate Director of Public Relations
      • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

        @foremski Tom, great post. A good PR pro's job should be about making your job easier. HOWEVER, a few notes to consider (from someone who's NEVER pitched you so I know I'm not guilty of this):<br>1) Good SEO practices (for press releases or other content) suggest that TOO MANY links is a bad practice for a number of reasons. I won't get into them here but let's just say a press release should NOT be some demon form of Internet spam, overly laden with keywords and links. So appropriate use of links should be one consideration for a PR pro;<br>2) PR pros are paid for story placement in the same way that professional athletes are paid to score -- of course it's a huge part of what they are expected to do, but there's more to it. It's important to make that point because, in fact, links are EXTREMELY important to today's PR pro. For many clients, how well links are used is a metric akin to story placement. Anyone who's on board with the line of thinking espoused by David Meerman Scott and others who've spent time pondering this understands that in 21st century marketing and PR, traffic through links in releases and other content is one of the most important ways to tell if your message is gaining traction on the Internet (not just with media, but from end users as well). With many of our clients, we use unique URLs in our materials so we can benchmark and track the results of clicks and subsequent activity back to specific releases or blogs or other material. This behavior is not really anything new, so it stuns me that you are getting so much PR material (at a tech media outlet no less!) from PR folks who aren't using links. Thanks again for highlighting something that should get more attention, even if it seems obvious to you and me.
    • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

      @KeithTrivitt thank you for the thoughtful reply on behalf of your industry colleagues. The fact that Tom, who I respect, has long-been a journalist and describes our profession in such a way, speaks to a bigger problem - we haven't been able to properly inform (and convince) our audiences that PR is more than story placement. (I see below, however, Tom, that you do know this, but it still tends to be a default description by many on what PR is and does).

      This is a common misnomer about our industry and we are continually positioned as non-strategic flacks. That's what's most frustrating to me about these types of posts. Well, that and the fact that so many in our industry really aren't up to par in many ways - which is why reporters continue to vent their frustrations (and rightly so in *most* cases).

      That being said, Tom, I can appreciate your frustration and you're right - PR executives need to better understand, implement and use SEO techniques in their work. Including links in background materials seems to me a very basic tactic that should already be in widespread use. I'm disheartened to hear that it isn't.

      Thanks for continuing to push our profession to improve.

      Christine Perkett
      Christine Perkett
  • Links in online press releases

    As a former corporate and agency PR professional now consulting, I used to be shocked that so many agency and corporate people don't know how to write for online publication, including using links. Now I accept it as the norm.

    It's not enough to have links; you also must know how many to use and where to place them. I once received a corporate online press release draft to critique that had eight links in the lead graph. Bummer.

    It seems PR pros insist on ceding this territory to SEO people, when they should learn the at least the rudiments of SEO themselves. And that is billable.

    Jim Bowman
    • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

      @ThePRDoc Good points...
  • Completely agree...

    Couldn?t agree more with what you say. Nearly all PR firms and so-called Public Relations pros don?t know the first thing about search, how it works and why to do it. In fact I believe we are 1 of the few top 50 PR agencies that actually have search experts on our staff. Great post and I agree ? the future of SEO will be with PR.

    Ronn Torossian
    CEO, 5WPR
  • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

    Tom,<br>I think you've hit on something much broader, yet equally troubling. Many PR people are very tech savvy, many more are not and just wouldn't know how to insert a hyperlink. Someone once asked me whether it's okay for her to just know how to write or should she understand the fundamental technology behind MSFT Office and like programs. I told her it's essential and off she went to learn the nuts and bolts. Unfortunately, I've encountered many more PR people who don't, won't, can't learn how to improve text and fail to get how content directed to media is changing in profound ways. Don't just learn how to insert a hyperlink, how about produce a video, social media release etc etc.<br><br>Tracey Gordon<br><a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"></a>
  • Laziness Anarchy are the reasons

    Tom is right, the lack of links in press releases is astounding. Equally astounding is how few companies and agencies have adopted the social media release format in its truest sense.

    Where I am not so sure is around Tom?s suggestion that they don?t do it because they aren?t rewarded for it. While true - I?ve yet to see PR people embrace search performance and relevancy into their metrics and strategies ? I don?t think it is the reason they aren?t included.

    Sadly, I think it is probably just laziness coupled with the usual editing anarchy that surrounds getting a release out.
  • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

    As an <a href="">SEO Consultant</a> I often have to educate the PR firms that my clients work with so that they understand the reason why it's critical to provide links within their press releases.

    Those PR firms that don't understand their key role in online marketing, i.e., to not only get the word out about the company in general, but to create awareness about their website and what makes it special, will not last in today's world.

    Appropriate linking needs to be part of all online PR strategies.
    Jill Whalen
  • RE: PR firms and the link-less news release...

    I'm astonished that more PR practitioners haven't responded to this post with what is, at least for us at (See what I did there?), a very simple reason why we don't embed links in our news release text. We don't embed links in the news releases we email to journalists because journalists have been telling us for years not to.

    It has been drummed into our heads that if our emails contain anything more than plain, simple text, they will be blocked by newsroom spam and security filters or rejected -- and then ridiculed in blog posts -- as being too much of a hard marketing sell. (Maybe you're an exception to that, Tom.)

    Now, that doesn't mean we don't use links. Immediately following the first reference to the client in every news release we write is a plain-text link to the client's web site. Further plain-text links are provided to product pages when we mention new products; to analyst reports when we reference them; to videos, photos or other story elements that we may have posted to social media sites; and to anything else we think might be useful to the journalist. Our contact information at the bottom of releases is practically littered with links to how we might be reached by email, Twitter or LinkedIn.

    So we provide lots and lots of links. We just don't embed them. Nor do we use html. Because journalists have told us not to.

    As for the motivation you cite for why PR practitioners don't use more links, that one really has me puzzled. If our clients are canny enough to understand the value of good links, and all of our clients are, then they're canny enough to have the analytics in place that tell them how many hits on their websites are directly attributable to our efforts by way of clicks from the articles we managed to place. This is one of the few -- and, so, most highly valued -- ways for us to be able to go beyond the mere thud value of dropping a clippings book on the boardroom table to start measuring the impact the coverage actually had on things they care about, like website traffic.

    Finally, effective search engine optimisation goes way beyond links back to our clients' websites. While a back-link from a high-ranked news site is worth a great deal, the far greater emphasis search engines place on relevance over back-links means that value will dissipate swiftly if the content searchers find on our clients' sites doesn't meet their expectations.

    -Francis Moran
    inmedia Public Relations Inc.
    Francis Moran
  • Great topic - huge issue

    As a former media guy turned agency guy turned corporate PR guy, I've been trying to keep on top of this very topic for quite some time. Early on, I'd get irritated with SEO folks who were hounding me to make sure we had links in our releases. But after learning first hand of the direct impact these links can have on search engine strategies, it's now mandatory in all of our releases, blogs, etc. Goal now is to really get into the optimal linking involving long- and short-tail keyword strategies AND sync'ing this all up with a corporate blogging strategy.

    I've seen a wide range of skills/knowledge from agencies on this topic. I strongly encourage PR pros at all levels (agency and client side both) to dive into this topic. Just when I think I'm an "expert," I learn new things and new strategies and I feel like a beginner all over again. I think it's an exciting opportunity to have PR delivery greater value than ever to an organization, but you've got to do it well.

    Tom, thanks for raising this issue. I'm continually working with my agency team to improve how we do this. I'd prefer getting more push from the agency sometimes on the strategy. So again, a tip for PR pros - make this an ongoing element of your client interaction. And if your client is behind the times, find ways to bring them along. You CAN teach old PR dogs new tricks.

    Joe Thornton (not the hockey player)
    Joe Thornton
  • One additional point

    To underscore my point that the more I learn the more I feel like a beginner, here's a post worth checking out (it really underscores the point that you have to continually study/learn to stay on top of linking strategies):
    Joe Thornton