How Much Does It Cost to Write a Press Release?
Sometime in the mid-2000s, industry prognosticators predicted the imminent death of the press release. The rise of the Internet and decline of print journalism, they said, would make the old-fashioned press release obsolete. Those predictions couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Instead of fading away, the press release has grown and expanded both in usefulness and value. Our clients use them for everything from their traditional job of garnering media coverage, to new applications like increasing close rates and attracting new joint venture opportunities. In many cases, press releases are a major source of SEO value.
In fact, few marketing communication tools have as much potential for ROI as the humble one-page press release, yet many organizations fail to fully capitalize on them. Not long ago, I was on the phone with a friend who runs a $10 million business. We were discussing another matter when he casually mentioned that the company was celebrating their 30th anniversary in business the following week.
“Oh,” I said. “Who’s handling your public relations for that?”
“Well,” 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
Many organizations are in the same boat when it comes to capitalizing on company news. If you’re among them, you may wonder whether press releases are a good investment, how to get more out of them, and, of course, how much it costs to write one.
So, How Much Does it Cost to Write a Press Release?
The short answer to the question, “How much does it cost to write a press release” is, I’m afraid, not one that is likely to win me a Pulitzer prize. That answer is: It depends. Because, frankly, it depends.
Useful little chart, innit?
But you didn’t come here for the snark (Or, maybe, you did? Congrats, you found it). So let’s do something useful, and take a deeper look at the factors that determine press release cost. Or, if you’re one of those who likes to read the last page of a book first, I will someday forgive you, and meanwhile you can download our own press release rate sheet by scrolling to the bottom of the page.
Factors that Affect the Cost to Write a Press Release
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 farther down the page. At bottom, the press release contained a name and phone number for media contacts, and three centered hashmarks to indicate the end of the document.
Today, the single-page format is still the gold standard, though it’s now considered acceptable to dress it up with a logo, letterhead, and other brand elements. Links are also sometimes included, depending on the audience. Often, press releases are sent in the body of an email, and may contain images, links, 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. Here are the three main factors that will determine how much you pay:
1. Quality of Writing
Regardless of how many elements a press release may contain, the core of a great 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 has built a piece of software or engineered a logistics system knows, 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. In fact, you are unlikely to get anything worth the virtual paper you print it on. Save Fiverr for less critical investments like taunting your old college buddy with a message written in peanuts by a hamster.
For $50, however, you might find an early-career freelance writer who can prepare something presentable. At this price, if you shop carefully, you may get good writing. What you will probably not find at this rate is experience with specific audiences, or a well-honed instinct for finding the right angle and driving it home effectively. If you know exactly what you want to write about, have a team who can provide distribution, and you’ve got more time to manage the process than money to spend on it, this may be a viable choice.
For $250 and a little hunting around, you may be able to hire an experienced, professional writer who will deliver a decent product with minimal fuss.
Generally, however, a range of $500-2500 is standard to retain an experienced, skilled press release writer. At the higher end, expect a strong portfolio, at least some focus on your type of business (B2B versus B2C, technical versus non-technical, size of company), and a demonstrated understanding for your audience(s).
On the upper end, it’s not unusual for agencies to charge $3000 and up. At these rates, you should expect access to a highly seasoned, professional PR writer who understands the audiences you’re targeting, specializes in your industry, and has demonstrated skill in sharp, clear messaging that attracts attention. Rates in this range will probably also include consultation and distribution services, discussed below.
Now let’s take a look at scope.
2. Scope of Work
Besides the actual writing, a number of services may or may not be included when you hire someone to produce a press release. The addition of any of these elements will increase your cost.
- Monitoring for press-release-worthy events. Knowing what constitutes news is a skill in itself. It requires media knowledge and active attention to company activity. Without someone performing this duty, it’s easy to miss events such as anniversaries, executive hires and promotions, acquisitions, new ventures, new lines of business, and other opportunities to garner valuable attention.
- Creating and maintaining a media kit. In addition to the press release itself, it’s handy to have a media kit prepared with leadership bios and head shots, company boilerplate, company history, and other elements depending on your needs. Your press release writer can prepare, maintain and update this asset as necessary, and tailor its elements for each press release recipient. Tailoring may include providing additional photos, background information, and related stories that the audience may find interesting.
- Additional interviews. Sometimes, a press release includes simple company information that can be collected in a single conversation. Other times, that one page of content can require interviews with multiple parties in order to identify the right angle, gather the right quotes, and put it all together in a compelling manner. The more interviews involved, the more you can expect to pay.
- SEO optimization. Press releases provide SEO value in at least two ways, even without optimization. First, when published to the site, they add content. Google likes sites with lots of content. Second, they generate inbound links when they get picked up by bloggers, media, and news streams. With the addition of optimization, SEO value increases. SEO optimization may include keyword research, incorporation of keywords in the content, and distribution for inbound link generation.
- Legal and/or Regulatory Compliance Consultation. In some industries, the need for regulatory compliance can significantly increase the cost of producing press releases.
- Multiple versions. Press releases are incredibly versatile, and to reach their highest potential, it’s often beneficial to tailor several versions. You might want one targeting local media, one for trade publications, another for bloggers, and yet another for the sales team to use during sales conversations. The degree of customization for each version will impact how much extra cost is involved.
- Distribution. In the Internet age, press release distribution is no longer as simple as subscribing to PR Newswire. You may want to reach industry bloggers, trade magazines, business sites, and others in addition to traditional local and/or national news. Expect to pay extra for consulting on distribution methods, as well as for the distribution itself. The more complex the distribution, the higher your cost will go. Distribution can add exponential cost, so be sure to discuss this with your provider before signing a contract. You can help keep distribution costs down by doing channel research internally and providing a list of media you want to target.
3. How You Pay
Hourly or flat rate? With rare exceptions, you will pay more for less if you pay by the hour. An inexperienced writer might not know how to scope the project to give you a flat quote. Instead, he or she may offer you an attractively low hourly rate.
Unfortunately, an inexperienced writer–even one with a great deal of talent–will take much longer to do the job than someone with experience. An experienced writer with expertise in your industry may require only a couple of hours to prepare a tightly constructed, compelling press release that generates a lot of attention. An inexperienced writer might spend those same two hours just getting to know your company and learning about the industry. By the time that writer has downloaded templates, read the latest news, written six drafts (each of which you’ll review and send back with comments), and delivered something acceptable, that hourly rate could approach what you would have paid the more experienced writer.
The inexperienced writer may still be a bargain, but avoid paying for their learning curve by asking for a flat rate. The prime exception to this rule is when distribution is included. It can be very difficult to scope a flat rate for complex distribution, and a flexible pricing schedule may make sense.
Now that you understand the key factors that determine the cost of a press release, you may have noticed there’s still a lot of wiggle room. So how much, exactly, should you invest?
Okay, How Much Should I Pay for a Press Release?
Some organizations may not be ready for a large investment, and would be best served by a new writer willing to work hard for a lower price point. Others will get the greatest benefit from a high-end service provider, while most fall somewhere in the middle.
Here are a few questions to help you decide at what level your company should invest:
- What is the value to your company of local media coverage? Do you currently get new business from advertising in local publications? How much do you currently spend on that advertising? If local media is an important marketing channel for your organization, and if you already spend a few thousand dollars or more on it per month, then you will probably get strong ROI from well-crafted, well-targeted press releases to your local media. Plan to invest at least a couple thousand dollars per press release with distribution. If local media coverage would be a mere vanity item and/or your organization is just getting started, that price point may not make sense for you. In that case, look for a decent freelancer who can offer you a lower price point.
- What is the value to your company of trade publication coverage? If your reputation among your peers is important–for instance, if you engage in affiliate business–you may already advertise in industry publications. These, and trade publications for any verticals that you target, are often hungry for content, making it fairly easy to place stories in them. Plan to spend a thousand dollars or more per press release. If you want your press release provider to research trade publications for a particular industry, or if you’re targeting multiple industry verticals, expect an additional charge for each vertical.
- Is your sales team responsible for closing large deals over long sales cycles? If so, press releases provide them an opportunity to touch base with prospects in a highly positive manner. Targeted press releases also lend substantial credibility to your organization. Some of our clients tell us our press releases play a major role in helping their teams close multi-million-dollar sales. Plan to invest at the high end of the scale to ensure your press releases reflect the quality of your brand. If, however, you don’t have a sales team, or if your sales process requires very little nurturing, then you probably have no need of press releases for this purpose.
- Is your organization in aggressive growth mode? If your company is growing quickly, whether through acquisitions or other means, then you probably have stockholders, partners, prospects, and other groups who expect to be regularly updated. Press releases are an invaluable tool for this purpose. Hire someone who can keep their finger on the pulse of your industry, suggest press release opportunities, and turn high-quality work around to your team quickly. Plan to invest near the high end.
The client I mentioned at the beginning, who recently celebrated their 30th anniversary, advertises both in local media and trade publications. When I found out they had no plans to publicize, I held them hostage until they agreed to do it. We quickly pulled together an updated media kit, with a press release at its center. We included a collection of historic photos from their early days, as well as updated, modern representations of their offerings. They provided us a list of trade publications they wanted to target, and we provided the local media contacts, plus distribution. We also wrote a customized version of the press release for a media outlet that requested a finished piece to meet a particular angle and word count.
That campaign yielded tens of thousands of dollars worth of coverage in local and trade publications. We’re now in discussions with that client to provide a monitoring service to ensure they don’t miss opportunities like that in the future. What did we charge them for all that? Well, the owner is a personal friend, so I’d have to kill you if I told you.
But if you want to know our standard rates, you can download our rate sheet by filling out the form below. We hope to hear from you soon.
Fen Druadìn Head (formerly Heather Head) is an author, as well as the founder of Scopcity. When she is not writing, running the business, or chasing down bad guys on Twitter, she enjoys hiking, snuggling with her husband and three boys, and avoiding the kitchen.