I think a lot about how to increase the value of our hosting services and one way is through partnerships. So I talk to many vendors to see if there is a good fit for a partnership. A partnership can be worked out quickly or can take years to work out. In either case, one thing I do take time to look at while evaluating a potential partnership is the vendor’s press releases.
Why? Well, you can tell a lot about a company from their press releases. The following are some of the things I check out.
First off, do they have press releases or post any news on their web site?
There is no requirement for a company to have press releases, but every company that I would consider successful uses press releases. So if a company doesn’t have any news, then I usually check when they started the company. Are they a new startup and haven’t generated a lot of news yet? Or have they been around for a long time and just have nothing newsworthy to put out there?
- Is the press release well-written?
If the release doesn’t read well or make any sense, that’s just a bad sign – period.
- Is the sole purpose of the press release Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Your natural search engine rankings are affected by the number of link-backs to your website. So doing press releases is one way to increase link-backs. If you are going to publish press releases, you should definitely make sure that your PR is search engine friendly for the keywords that are important to your business. However, this practice has also gotten out of hand and led to a proliferation of press releases whose only purpose is SEO.
Is there an unusual amount of keyword stuffing in the copy? Are there an unusual number of links in the release or forced use of anchor text for linking? Does the language and flow of the copy seem natural or forced? Those engaged in “PR spamming” should take into account that Google is always tweaking their ranking algorithm and it is just a matter of time before they clamp down on this PR spamming practice.
- Is the release newsworthy?
Is the press release newsworthy and compelling? For the most part you can easily tell if the purpose of the press release is just back-link creation and keyword stuffing.
- Is there a quote from a company representative?
In standard press release format, there should be a quote from a company representative. Does the company have one spokesperson or many? Who are they? Does the quote make sense in the context of the release? Is there a quote from another company/partner in the release? Who are they?
For extra credit, you can perform a Bing/Google search of the quote to see if the press release includes any template copy or if there is any plagiarism.
- Is the content one-dimensional or does it demonstrate a breadth of activity?
I’ve seen companies whose press releases are basically a series of customer profiles or newly won contracts and I’ve also seen companies just do monthly announcements of a new special promotion. There is nothing wrong with such press releases but is that the only newsworthy content they have?
- Is the PR content and web site content out of sync?
I’ve seen my share of press releases announcing a cool new feature, but when you check out the web site – there is no mention of the new feature. If you encounter this, you can get a sense of the internal communication challenges within the company.
- How often does the company publish press releases?
You can get a sense of how actively a company is evolving and enhancing their product and services through the press release cadence. Is the last press release posted a couple of years old? Does the company work in spurts (i.e., are there periods of activity followed by long gaps)? If so, you have to ask yourself, why is this the case?
- How will our mutual partnership announcement flow as part of the company’s PR cadence?
I’m of the opinion that it’s not a good idea to have multiple press releases go out at once unless you are a huge company like Microsoft and just have that much stuff going on. For us, we try to stagger our press releases so that we and our partners have the most opportunity for exposure. So you want to make sure that both companies cadence for announcements sync up when you issue the press release. And you also want to avoid those times of the year that you would expect low readership as much as you can - e.g. major holidays.
- Is the content consistent with company’s branding?
From what you know about the company, do you think that the content of the releases are consistent with their branding? Are they making announcements that are tangential or unrelated to their business or brand? If so, you have to ask why?
- How does the company position itself?
Press releases often contain a short boiler plate description of the company. This is a great place to find out what the company thinks of itself and how it positions itself in the market.
- How has the company evolved over the years?
All companies evolve over time and you can read through the boiler plates of press releases over the course of several years and get an understanding of how a company has evolved.
By checking out the characteristics of a company’s press releases you can gain some insight about the company you are considering working with. These insights can help you get a feel of the strengths and weaknesses of the partner, help in negotiations, help define terms and/or each parties’ responsibilities, and it could be that some observations will serve as a red flag for you to walk away. Each deal is different so you’ll need to do your due diligence and make a judgment call on how to approach the potential partnership.