No, a Sponsored Labeled Crypto Press Release Is Not An Alternative to Editorial Coverage, PR Pro Says

Earned media is often more valuable for Web3 projects than pay-to-play posts, Tal Harel says.

AccessTimeIconMay 23, 2024 at 3:44 p.m. UTC
Updated May 24, 2024 at 3:02 p.m. UTC

Press release distribution services, or newswires in short, have been a staple of the marketing industry for years, used by thousands of businesses as their go-to option for spreading the word.

Recently, crypto-focused distribution services have gained a lot of traction in the blockchain space, pitching themselves as a "cheaper" way for projects to gain visibility through sponsored press releases during the dark days of crypto winter, when marketing budgets were tight.

This article is part of CoinDesk's Web3 Marketing package. Note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CoinDesk, Inc. or its owners and affiliates.

Crypto's latest spell in the doldrums, which endured from the end of 2021 until the middle of 2023, meant that most projects didn't have the luxury of spending thousands of dollars on promoting themselves, and so the idea of a press release being syndicated to dozens of websites in a single click was attractive.

But is this shotgun-style approach really the most effective method of getting the PR and building the credibility and trust that your project so desperately needs?

Far more 'misses' than 'hits'

Anyone who knows how press release distribution actually works will understand why using them is often a bad idea.

While press release distribution services have partnered with dozens of crypto news outlets and can guarantee sponsored labeled placements on these websites, the quality and credibility of that coverage is questionable at best.

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Compared to a bland list of syndicated headlines, an intriguing and personalized pitch is a million times more likely to get journalists' attention
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With these services, press releases are generally just "syndicated", meaning that, although they will indeed be published by dozens of news sites, including crypto-focused ones, they'll often end up published in a non-editorial “backyard” section of the website that gets a lot less eyeballs. The actual content will just be a duplicated version of the original press release, with no editorial review, no analysis, no opinions or unique interpretation of what's happening. Just a sponsored labeled press release, with a regulatory requirement to disclose that it's basically just a paid ad, which generates neither the credibility or trust projects are seeking.

Here's an example of how it looks on one of the more popular crypto news sites. In this case, it's a crying shame because a $15 million funding round is actually a newsworthy story and could well have been picked up by an editorial reporter. But because it's automatically syndicated, editors will see little point in writing up a unique article when it has already been published. In my opinion, the company that chose the paid distribution route made a big mistake, but it's far from alone in making such an error. There are numerous examples of newsworthy stories in the crypto industry suffering a similar fate.

But aren't these releases also distributed to a broader pool of crypto journalists, you might ask? Surely someone will want to pick it up and cover it editorially, right?

Earned media is the way to go

If you're looking for compelling coverage of your news on a reputable site that's perceived to be trustworthy, then a direct pitch to a seasoned reporter is the way to go. When your news is covered by a real journalist, it creates a sense of authenticity, conveying the idea that your story is worth the attention of readers.

A media pitch involves communicating directly with a journalist or editor in order to convince them that you have a bona-fide story people actually want to read. The actual pitch is really just a short message that's intended to pique their interest in your news and encourage them to write about it. It can be an effective tool for experienced marketers, who understand that journalists are very busy and receive dozens of such pitches every day. As such, their pitches are generally very concise and direct, highlighting the key points of the news and explaining why it's of interest. They'll also be personalized for the specific journalist or publication in question, demonstrating why it should interest their audience.

Compared to a bland list of syndicated headlines, an intriguing and personalized pitch is a million times more likely to get journalists' attention. And because readers will know it was written by a journalist, the resulting story will create far more believable PR.

That said, it's important to realize that not every story merits a direct pitch. Self-promotional company announcements with no news hook whatsoever, such as airdrops, non-fungible token (NFT) drops, token sales and listings, probably won't interest reporters as these are barely newsworthy. So if you absolutely have to get the word out, then a press release distribution service might be worth a shot for an announcement of this kind, or take the owned media route.

But otherwise, no.

Edited by Daniel Kuhn.

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CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Tal Harel

Tal Harel is a crypto enthusiast with PR and communications expertise, been helping early-stage blockchain startups and established businesses to build and maintain their digital footprint, as well as move from Web2 to Web3. He holds Bitcoin as well as altcoins.