Interview with a PressRelease-o-maniac

8 08 2008

Today I interviewed engineer-turned-marketer, David Butler creator and owner of PressRelease-o-maniac, a London-based press release distribution site.  PressRelease-o-maniac is only a few months old but is already getting an increasing number of PRs submitted on a daily basis and shows a lot of future growth potential.

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

Sure, it might surprise you but I’m not a marketer!  I come from an engineering background – graduated from Cambridge University six years ago. I then worked in a start-up company developing graphics software for simulators until the start of 2008 when I decided to start working with a small team of web ninjas in the online business. Haven’t looked back since! and (beta) are among our creations.

How did an engineer decide to venture into the PR world?

PressRelease-o-maniac came about from the realization that the old adage, “if you make it they will come” simply wasn’t true.  As an engineer I was interested in making products and services of value.  Coming up with a good idea, investing time and money creating it was hard enough, but I soon found out that marketing to a wider audience was actually harder.  A trickle of users actively searching the web might stumble across the product or service, however, the masses are left in the dark.

After a few mentions in the press (both online and printed) we noticed major spikes in our web traffic and learned that journalists wielded awesome power!  I did know that press releases were a way that journalists found stories, however, a quick trawl through the main press release submission sites showed that issuing releases was expensive!  In addition, I felt that they could be improved and given some of the “web 2.0” treatment.  So, I thought, why not create a PR site?  When there’s something we want to present to the world, It would become our virtual megaphone.

What are your thoughts on the importance of incorporating internet press releases into a company’s marketing strategy?

Predictably I’m going to say very important!  But it’s true. The first thing about the internet is that it’s here to stay and it’s only going to get bigger. It’s also a great tool that has the ability to provide quality feedback. Quantifiable stats such as how many people have seen your release, when and where they came from can be gathered. Marketing is a science and with the help of this data, lessons can be learned so that future campaigns become more successful.  The internet is still new and it’s relatively easy to carve a niche within it. Presumably your business is already is a niche of some description, otherwise it wouldn’t be profitable! So dominate your space online as well!

Just a note here about the engineering – I’d like to make a point using the Apple brand as an illustration. The iPhone would probably be able to market itself, being really very cool. But I bet Apple didn’t consider reducing their advertising budget because their product was good! There’s a multiplier effect at work. Apple can actually be criticized for letting marketing have more influence than the engineering department. Make your engineering dept of the highest possible standard and also empower it, because the better the service/product, the easier it’ll be to market.

How does a company utilize internet press releases to enhance their visibility on the web?

According to Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct, most sentences we speak have never been uttered before in the history of the planet. So choose your words carefully, perhaps deliberately make them more similar to what might be queried in a search engine.  Also, be “remarkable” i.e. have a story that people want to talk about with their colleagues around the water cooler the next day. Those in the blogosphere happen to like a good story and that just means more links to your website.  Nothing increases search engines rankings better than quality inbound links.

What’s the future hold for PressRelease-o-maniac as far as site enhancements, additional offerings, etc.?

First of all, I think it’s interesting to compare the traditional newswire with social networking sites such as Digg and Reddit that are very big today. They’re not that different – they present lists of stories, only Digg and Reddit allow voting, such that seemingly more interesting stories float to the top. Today, journalists still seem to stick to the newswire. I suspect this is because stories are still usually found there first, then propagated to social sites. Journos also don’t want to be spoon-fed! That’s not to mention the bias towards sensational items of interest to the 15-30 year old male demographic.

Indeed there are changes coming to PressRelease-o-maniac… fairly imminently in fact, but the good news is that we’re going to remain free.  Submission quality will however have to be maintained with a more stringent filtering process – unlike Google’s somewhat lame “don’t be evil” we believe in “actively be good”, so releases that are “unhelpful” we would be inclined to ignore… So if say a large gaming complex was to open in some corner of Nevada, we probably wouldn’t bother publishing that.

The site’s minimalist appearance will probably stay, such that the focus is on the content! Guess we’re like Craigslist that way…

Each release will be categorized. Already you see the Google Map of stories and that releases from a particular country can be isolated, but sections like one on sport, health, finance etc will be added, tags too. Improving our distribution is another major challenge. After all, that’s what it’s all about. We’re going to work on growing our list of subscribers and get all those stories out there, 50K so far and counting…

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One response

9 08 2008

That was a good interview and I enjoyed reading it. I am continuing to learn more about PR and look forward to utilizing them to their ultimate advantage.

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