The three largest press release distribution services released approximately 1,759 press releases a day in 2013. With each of those releases, the newswire service provided a list of coverage and page views associated with the press release.

So, what was the value of each press release?

I recently read a how-to article from a popular PR software company discussing how to determine the ROI of a press release. The blog post broke down, step by step, how to read that dashboard given after every distributed release, which showed figures about how many people read your release, how many interactions it received, and more.

The post was factually correct. Distribution services do provide dashboards with this information, and sometimes, that can be valuable. That's not what bothered me about the article.

I was concerned that the post would foster a false understanding of the real value of a press release. The post made it seem like all a company needs to do is put a press release on the newswire and review the metrics in the report. Presto—instant ROI! Your job is done.

I'm sorry... but no.

That viewpoint is a dangerous and unfair misconception to be promoting. Press release reprints are not the same as coverage in earned media. They don't have the credibility of a news article written by an independent journalist. Those press releases are included in a separate area of the publication's website separate from the news, and they are often hosted on the newswire's website (which is made to look like the publication).

Here's a fun challenge: Try to find a press release on the news website that shows up in the press release wire's report without following the link in the report or using a search engine.

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image of Lydia Howard

Lydia Howard is a vice-president at PAN Communications, an integrated marketing communications agency with offices in San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Orlando.

LinkedIn: Lydia Howard

Twitter: @lydhow