The Main Differences Between Press Releases and Paid Advertisements

September 1, 2017
The following pointers will differentiate the two types of content, so your brand can accomplish its goals utilizing both.

In today’s digital marketing world, small businesses must generate high-quality content such as press releases, landing pages, blog posts, social media ads, etc., either in-house or via a third-party in order to compete successfully. Although these types of content aim to increase your brand’s online visibility and boost consumer engagement, each accomplishes these tasks in their own way. To build and execute an effective content strategy for your small business, it will be critical to know the main differences between a press release and an advertisement. The following pointers will differentiate the two types of content, so your brand can accomplish its goals utilizing both.

No. 1: Press releases are crafted for potential free publicity, while advertisements are a financial investment directly targeted towards consumers. Summed up, press releases are announcements pertaining to you, the business owner, or your business itself. Some examples of press release topics include receiving an award or recognition, launching a new product or service, organizing or attending an event/seminar, and executing a new technology. Press releases bring your business’ announcements into the public foray, which opens the opportunity for receiving free media attention. Though press release pickups are not always guaranteed, your press release will at least show up on Google searches for your business, offering potential customers a bit of background on your brand before they even visit your website or social media pages. Dissimilarly, your small business will pay directly for space to run its advertisements, online or in print. Rather than earning free media, advertisements offer paid exposure. However, this difference allows your brand to exercise more creative license when delivering its message to the public.

No. 2: Press releases have a shorter lifespan. While advertisements and ad campaigns may remain relevant to your brand’s audience for an indefinite amount of time (and can be promoted on your social media platforms for as long as they seem fit), press releases are a different story. Because this type of content is appealing to the news media, your announcements ought to focus on one relevant achievement, event, or happening. Furthermore, this news will succeed in capturing the attention of journalists and media outlets only when the announcement is newsworthy and “hot,” which is typically 1-2 weeks after the news itself or the announcement. In the world of press releases, anything older than a month is no longer relevant. Although press releases rarely achieve evergreen status, this news content is perfect for building your business’ reputation and credibility as well as earning publicity at no cost to you.

No. 3: Press releases are informative content, while ads try to persuade consumers to take action and buy into your brand.  At their core, news releases are meant to share a wealth of information regarding an event, new product/service, organization, and brand. All the information packed into a press release creates buzz around your small business, helping it stand out to journalists and media outlets. Simply put, press releases will announce newsworthy moments for your business, but they should never try to convince readers to buy your product, subscribe to your email newsletter, or test a new service. To follow editorial guidelines, they should always have an objective tone, meaning they avoid addressing the audience directly via “you” and using superlatives (such as “best or “amazing”). On the other hand, it is widely accepted for advertisements to use persuasion and direct address, as the audience knows that the ad is paid for and the company is trying to sell them something. This is why press releases that try to solicit business are seen as low-quality and tend to be ignored by journalists and editors. Adopting persuasive tactics in a press release jeopardizes the brand behind it, threatening the business’ credibility, overall popularity, and even profit margins. When in doubt, remember that consumers don’t want to read your press releases and journalists don’t want to read your ads.

Written by Melissa McElhose, NALA Blog Writer

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