eReleases: Helping businesses generate leads and get noticed through affordable, strategic newswire service

By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur. 

Mickie Kennedy from Maryland, Baltimore is the president of eReleases. He has been running the company for around 23 years now, through which he helps companies and entrepreneurs get noticed. 

In the latest episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur podcast, he talked about a very special offering that he has for business owners — an offering that comes amidst the big world of sending out press releases (PR).

Image from LinkedIn

What Does eReleases Offer?

eReleases offers custom national distribution over PR Newswire. They also provide a higher-end product wherein they send emails to journalists that they feel would be appropriate for their clients’ press releases. The number of recipients varies from 100 to 400. 

More than 10 years ago, PR Newswire approached Mickie and offered to send his press release through them. At the time, he was charging $250 while PR Newswire charged about $1,000 for a 500- to 600-word press release to go out nationally. 

Both built their relationship to be a win-win: Mickie has a client base that comprises small businesses who’d never be able to afford to go directly to the Newswire. Newswire’s salespeople, on the other hand, also wouldn’t be interested in someone doing only one to three press releases a year. 

During his meeting with them, he discovered that they have an overnight editorial team. That’s why he said that it wouldn’t cost them a thing to work on press releases and set them up for the next day. This enabled him to schedule all of their releases for next-day distribution. They also have other workflow elements that make this easier.

With this, eReleases has allowed small businesses, entrepreneurs, authors, and startups to be able to access the wire nationally. This is great value for just a few hundred dollars.

He’s proud that he’s able to offer that and be a cooperative of sorts with small businesses. Together, they’re able to leverage this preferred pricing with a newswire. 

Pursuing Big Media

With PR Newswire, about 70 to 80% of their press contact will be unnecessary recipients if the press release that they’re sending is for a smaller company. 

In eReleases’ case, they still go out to the big media. As Mickie pointed out, you’ll be surprised at how sometimes, these big media would pick up something and run with it.

Screengrab from eReleases’ website

Last year, they did a press release for the Dining Bonds Initiative. The campaign aims to help out restaurants that closed down during the pandemic.

Mickie considered it a perfect storm because there was a lot of negative news and theirs was something that was very positive. For the project, they got over 150 articles including those from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times — all of which are major places that they weren’t expecting. 

This is why, sometimes, it’s beneficial to have those big guys on the list even though it feels like they’re unlikely to pick up your press release. Apart from getting media coverage, it has generated millions of dollars in revenue that went right back immediately into a lot of restaurants that closed down. 

The story proved to be something that people really identified with. It was actionable. It was positive news. 

The Importance of Newswire Service

The leverage that you get by going to newswires — which, at times, seems unnecessarily large — can be beneficial.

Newswires act as a distribution platform for press releases. 

A lot of people are familiar with newswires such as Reuters, United Press International, The Associated Press, and Dow Jones among others. Their business model is different: They write the content. It’s all-original reporting and they’re just licensing it to other people. With this, a small newspaper may not need to write breaking news right now because they can simply pull it off of the wire.

Press release newswires work similarly to that in the sense that press releases are transmitted electronically. However, when it goes to the points like The Associated Press and Reuters, it doesn’t mean that it automatically runs on there — it’s still up for them to consider. And if they do run it, they generally turn it into an article or some content that they themselves have crafted. 

It’s a wide distribution that’s electronic. You could actually go to the website as a journalist and log in and customise your feed. You can see the exact type of content that you want to see. You can include or exclude keywords that can refine what you see. 

Boosting Credibility

Mickie sees sending press releases over the wise and sharing it with your own social media as complementary. You get earned media as a result of the press release, and there’s no reason you can’t share those articles with your own people as well. 

He always tells people to document the earned media that they get. Take screenshots, record those, and put them on your website. This gives a huge credibility boost. 

Screengrab from eReleases’ website

If someone visits the website of a company that they never heard of, and they see a series of press releases, then their guard goes down and they’d feel more comfortable that it’s not a scam company. 

It’s also the same with your vendors, suppliers, and partners. You can communicate with them by making newsworthy announcements, issuing press releases, and sharing the earned media that you get as a result of your PR.

As you have leads in your pipeline, you have to share with them when you get earned media.

Take note that earned media are an implied endorsement because a journalist writes about you. 

Mickie’s customers always tell him that they may not get a huge amount of traffic when they get earned media — but they do attract traffic, convert, and entice people to click. Their audience won’t need to open a new window and check if they can get their product cheaper elsewhere. Their customers are willing to do business with them because they’ve previously read about them. These are customers who are loyal; they’re what people are looking for in an optimum audience. 

He also has clients who did so well that they sent a pay-per-click track to the article (not to their website) knowing that people can be converted through it. While they can’t retarget that traffic, it’s still worth it because the people that read the article tend to buy. 

When you’re doing earned media, it creates the opportunity in which a person who discovers you would want to do business with you. 

At the end of the day, if the article does such a great job of introducing an audience to a company and their service or product, and it has the legitimacy of being a third-party piece of content (not a paid sponsorship), it can do really well.

Crafting a Strategic Press Release

Unlike a PR firm, eReleases don’t do a follow-up of the traditional press release. Rather, what they try to instill in their customers is to be strategic so that every time they send a message, a press release, or an announcement, they’re more likely to get picked up. 

For a press release to be considered strategic or newsworthy, Mickie cited one of his clients who got favourable media outcomes during the pandemic. 

His client does 30 to 40 surveys a year and covers a lot of little niches. They’re a platform where people can find information about different companies (e.g. who has the best scanning or accounting software). 

They do press releases on each of these areas. For instance, if they are to do one about accounting, they’ll do a survey of people in that industry including accountants and bookkeepers. Through it, they’ll be able to determine what is trending at the moment. 

Their press releases then will be very specific, and consequently, will do really well. Usually, they’d get eight to 14 earned media articles every time they do a press release on one of their surveys or studies. 

Image from Unsplash

Mickie has also coached a local auto repair shop in Pennsylvania that wants to get into industry trade publications. Their website went down (They got their domain name through one of those in yellow pages and it went dark). Now, they have a new domain name but still had no links to it. Someone who specialises in search engine optimisation told them that if they can get auto industry publications linking to them, it’ll be the quickest and easiest way for their site to start ranking. 

Mickie told his client that he’s not newsworthy at the time. And what they have to do is to become the news by doing a survey and throwing one or two oddball questions. In their case, the question was: What’s the strangest thing a customer left in their car while being repaired? The survey was an open field where respondents can write a sentence or two.

They sent that to other auto repair shops. They reached out to a trade association of independent auto repair centres and 800 of their members responded.

The question that they asked came out of the left field. As it gave no statistical evidence because every response was different, Mickie and his team simply curated the most interesting ones. As a result, 10 auto trade publications picked them up including their local newspaper. 

While he told his client that their customers wouldn’t see the content, the goal was to get to those auto trade publications. Within three months, they were able to rank no. 1 under their new domain name. They had all those articles that linked back to them, which helped give them a lot of credibilities. Their customers also eventually came in and shared their own stories (e.g. a grandmother leaving an urn for memorial service).

At the end of the day, it’s all about stories. It’s about communicating and creating something that an audience would be interested in reading more about. 

If you take it to a journalist and gatekeeper and they’d write content about it, you’re helping them do their job of passing along some great information to their audience. 

Many people are writing about what’s important to them. They want to promote a product or a service, making their content self-centric. However, that won’t let you come across something that would be captivating or interesting to someone to read or learn more about. 

As what I talk about in the SPEAK|PR program, it’s not about you or your company. It’s about what your customers in the marketplace are doing. You’re simply facilitating the conversation.

Advertising eReleases

Being an entrepreneur for 23 years now, Mickie shared that he got his business noticed by doing a lot of pay-per-click advertising among people who are in the buying process of a press release. He and his team also do blogging, communicating, and talking about the subject matter.

Screengrab from eReleases’ website

Apart from those, he’s also doing interviews where he discusses press releases and their value. He also sends articles out there and gets placed in the media as well. 

He does anything that can get him and his business out there, including utilising social media. While he feels that it’s not a huge driver of his business, he still considers it a necessary piece of the puzzle that supports, links, and helps you interact with all other advertising forms (e.g. email marketing).

He also provides a lot of quick start guides and other giveaways so that people can learn more. Through those, he’s able to build a relationship with them. 

When it comes to leveraging earned media, he also offers to write an article for an actual publication and make it specific to them. It’s a lot more work but through it, he’s able to craft a message that’s a lot more relevant for his audience. 

In terms of getting it out to some key publications, the majority of where he goes to are business strategy websites and other places that people go for resources. His goal is to be one of the resources on those pages. 

How Frequent Should You Issue a Press Release?

Asked about the frequency of issuing a press release, Mickie recommends doing six to eight. If you’re going to test press releases, releasing at that frequency will give you a good understanding of how your PR campaign is faring. 

You also have to try different strategic messages for each one. Then, assess if any of those resonated with your audience. Did you get enquiries? Did any of those enquiries come from earned media or actual articles being written about you?

He also said that you have to be strategic with the types of press releases that you’re doing. Try to look at it from a journalistic perspective. What can you do that would really help them do their job? 

Many people are familiar with newsjacking, wherein you try to align yourself with a hot topic. To elevate the conversation, you have to make your content very specific. Rather than joining on board with everybody else, you have to introduce something new. 

Image from Unsplash

For instance, he had a client and there was a big scandal about Target and the hacking of credit card numbers and other personal information. A lot of people are doing press releases for the six months that have succeeded. They used Target as a case study and introduced themselves as a cyber security outfit that offers the solution. 

His client wanted to do the same thing. However, Mickie told him that those people aren’t getting a lot of media coverage because there are already many of them out there. He advised him to focus on something very narrow.

One of their client’s services is to help small merchants have credit card terminals on their counters. With this in mind, they created a free audit, sharing the 10 things that businesses with credit card terminals should do to determine if they’re at risk of getting hacked. By narrowing that down, they were able to get a number of articles written about them. 

Rather than simply joining the conversation, Mickie recommended that you should take a slice of it and focus on that. Or, you can say something that goes against what the rest is saying. Either way, it will help you stand a stronger chance of getting noticed. 

You can find more about Mickie and eReleases on LinkedIn. If you interact with their website or give them a phone call, you’ll be able to speak with an editor (they have no salespeople) who can walk you through the PR process — from drafting a release to being continuously strategic about subject matters that are more likely to get picked up. 

This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.

Cover image by Olia Gozha on Unsplash