Society for New Communications Research Study Finds That Press Releases Are Not Just for Press Anymore; Research Sponsored by Vocus, Inc.

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The press release is no longer just a tool for public relations professionals. In fact, marketing professionals and small business owners now use press releases with just as much frequency as PR professionals, according to a new Society for New Communications Research study, "Exploring the ROI of Online Press Releases," which was sponsored by SNCR Vendor Council member Vocus. Furthermore, the press release was once used to attract the attention of journalists and media outlets. Now, it is used to accomplish a much greater range of goals including reaching bloggers, driving website traffic, and search engine optimization (SEO). The results of the study will be shared in a presentation led by SNCR executive director Jen McClure at the 2008 Vocus Users Conference, which will be held June 4-6 in Washington, DC.

The press release is no longer just a tool for public relations professionals. In fact, marketing professionals and small business owners now use press releases with just as much frequency as PR professionals, according to a new Society for New Communications Research study, "Exploring the ROI of Online Press Releases," which was sponsored by SNCR Vendor Council member Vocus. Furthermore, the press release was once used to attract the attention of journalists and media outlets. Now, it is used to accomplish a much greater range of goals including reaching bloggers, driving website traffic, and search engine optimization (SEO).

More than 420 marketing and public relations professionals, as well as small business owners participated in a detailed online survey that was available from March 31 - April 16, 2008. The questionnaire asked respondents how and why they use online press releases and how they measure the value of online press releases.

Top findings include:

  • The press release is becoming a communications tool for both public relations and marketing professionals alike. Approximately one-third of respondents were marketing professionals (32.9%); 30% were public relations professionals. Small business owners and self-employed individuals accounted for 23.7% of those who issue online press releases, according to the survey.
  • Additional goals and priorities for press releases are emerging. In addition to reaching the press and announcing news, today's top priorities for those issuing online press releases include: increasing visibility and credibility for the organization, directly reaching customers, making content available to online users, and search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Bloggers have joined traditional media as highly valued targets. Respondents indicated that reaching bloggers and new media outlets were nearly as high a priority as reaching traditional media. Seventy-three percent indicated that it is "important to very important" to reach traditional media via their online press releases while 67.7% indicated that it is "important to very important" to reach bloggers and new media outlets. For small business owners, reaching bloggers and social media sites was slightly more important than reaching traditional media.
  • Measures of value and success are changing. Respondents rank their top measures of value for their online press releases by how many times the press release is published on other websites and the number of online views of the release. Both of these metrics rated higher than articles or media interview requests based on the release. In fact, respondents indicated that the most important placements for the releases are online news aggregators, such as Google News, Yahoo News and online news sites like Reuters and Topix, followed by blogs and social media sites. In addition, respondents noted that the two most valuable aspects of issuing online news releases is the opportunity for SEO and the opportunity to reach both consumers and customers directly, as well as traditional media.
  • PR and marketing professionals have different priorities and perspectives. Respondents who identified themselves as public relations professionals noted they primarily use online press releases to announce news and enhance thought leadership, while respondents who identified themselves as marketing professionals stated their priorities as SEO optimization for the organization's website and reaching customers and consumers. Small business owners stated that they use online press releases as a sales tool to reach customers and consumers.
  • Hard measures of value and success are a challenge. Respondents stated that their top challenges in maximizing the value of issuing online press releases include: "cutting through the clutter," targeting and distribution, affordability and measurement and metrics.

"Respondents seemed to want to measure the value of their online releases as they would an ad or marketing campaign," stated Dr. Mihaela Vorvoreanu, SNCR research fellow and assistant professor in communication studies at Clemson University. "They stated that they would like to be able to measure 'eyeballs' and 'dollar value'."

"This study indicates that this basic PR tool is branching out and evolving from press release to news release. The results show that other professions besides PR use news releases for purposes other than media relations. Reaching out to bloggers and new media was an expected result, but the news release is used to reach out directly to the public, not only to the 'press'," added Vorvoreanu.

"Press releases are still an important tool for PR professionals, but the broad range of benefits and increased accessibility have allowed a wider variety of professionals - including marketers and small business owners -- to use the medium to share compelling stories," commented Jiyan Wei, Vocus, online product manager, PRWeb and a member of the SNCR's Vendor Council and Advisory Board. "News releases are not just for the Fortune 500, but have become a valuable tool for smaller businesses to increase their sales and create publicity."    

The team of SNCR research fellows who conducted the study included Shel Holtz, SNCR founding fellow and principal of Holtz Communication + Technology and Dr. Mihaela Vorvorneau, a 2008 SNCR fellow and assistant professor at Clemson University, working in conjunction with TWI Surveys, Inc.

The results of the study will be shared in a presentation led by SNCR executive director Jen McClure at the 2008 Vocus Users Conference, which will be held June 4-6 in Washington, DC. The final results will also be highlighted in the Society's Journal of New Communications Research, published in a full report that will be available from SNCR, and shared at the Society's annual Research Symposium in Fall 2008. A series of recommendations for the PR/marketing communications profession will also be presented by the SNCR's Best Practices committee.

This research was sponsored by Vocus.

About PRWeb
PRWeb is recognized as a leading online news and news release distribution service worldwide. Since 1997, PRWeb has been changing the way businesses, marketing departments and public relations firms think about press releases. PRWeb was the first company to develop a distribution strategy around direct-to-consumer communication and to build and offer a search engine optimized platform for press release distribution. PRWeb, located in Ferndale, WA, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vocus, Inc., a leading provider of on-demand public relations management software. For more information, please visit http://www.prweb.com.

About Vocus, Inc.
Vocus, Inc. (NASDAQ: VOCS) is a leading provider of on-demand software for public relations management. Our web-based software suite helps organizations of all sizes to fundamentally change the way they communicate with both the media and the public, optimizing their public relations and increasing their ability to measure its impact. Our on-demand software addresses the critical functions of public relations including media relations, news distribution and news monitoring. We deliver our solutions over the Internet using a secure, scalable application and system architecture, which allows our customers to eliminate expensive up-front hardware and software costs and to quickly deploy and adopt our on-demand software. Vocus is used by more than 2,600 organizations worldwide and is available in five languages. Vocus is based in Lanham, MD with offices in North America, Europe, and Asia. For more information please visit http://www.vocus.com or call 800.345.5572.

About the Society for New Communications Research
The Society for New Communications Research is a global nonprofit 501(c)(3) think tank dedicated to the advanced study of new communications tools, technologies and emerging modes of communication, and their effect on traditional media, professional communications, business, culture and society. The Society's Fellows include more than 40 futurists, scholars, business leaders, professional communicators, members of the media and technologists from around the globe. In addition, the Society's members include a Vendor Council with representatives from more than a dozen leading technology companies and Organizational Affiliates comprising industry associations, research organizations and other leading think tanks. For more information about the Society for New Communications Research, visit http://www.sncr.org or call +1 (650) 331-0083.

This release contains "forward-looking" statements that are made pursuant to the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Statements that are predictive in nature, that depend upon or refer to future events or conditions, or that include words such as "may," "will," "expects," "projects," "anticipates," "estimates," "believes," "intends," "plans," "should," "seeks," and similar expressions. Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties that may cause actual future results to differ materially from those projected or contemplated in the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements may be significantly impacted by certain risks and uncertainties described in Vocus' filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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