Despite what some PR experts, gurus, mavens, rock stars or ninjas may tell you, the press release is not dead. In fact, the press release is more alive than ever, but what has suffered a (fortunate) passing, is the press release’s form and function.
Years ago, chances are your company would draft a single press release, pump it full of as much hyperbole as possible—seems like there are a lot of “industry leading” products out there—and blast it out to your press list, which most likely included the list of every single member of the media you could possibly find. If you really wanted to make a splash, you would even pay to send your release out through a wire service (note: this is still effective, but for different reasons. More on distribution services below).
For a period of time, these were actually common PR practices and at times, where actually effective in generating the kind of news you wanted. However, as more and more companies took to the “spray and pray” approach to delivering press releases, the effectiveness of cutting through the clutter to get your release in front of the press—and eventually to your audiences—diminished.
While many credible PR professionals adapted and developed new strategies for pitching news, far too many “pros” stuck with the tried-and-true spam approach, resulting in a bad name for PR and the press release.
Fast forward to today: You’ve got a great new product you’re ready to launch or an event you want to promote and you want to write a press release. You feel a press release is appropriate, but you definitely don’t want to get on the PR black list among the press.
To get you on the right track, I’ve provided a few tips on your press release strategy:
1. Ask yourself: Is this really news? Some companies make the mistake of assuming that everything thing they do is worth a press release. If you send out a press release a day, the press are going to lose sight of what’s actually “news” and miss the one press release that actually matters. Save press releases—or at least the one’s you send out—for your major announcements.
2. Do you keyword research. Beyond communicating news, your press release now serves as an extremely valuable SEO tool. Search engines love press releases because they provide new content on the web. Use keyword tools such as Google Adwords (www.adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal ) to determine three keywords or phrases that would be appropriate for this announcement. For example, your customers don’t Google “ultra high-end discreet audio solution”, they Google “ceiling speaker”.
3. Write with SEO in mind. Identify the most effective keyword and use it in your headline (tip: try to keep the headline to 60-100 characters). Using your keywords, include anchor text, or hyperlinks, throughout the release. Don’t simply link back to your website home page. If you are writing about a specific product, link to that product page on your site. Keep your links to a minimum; 2-3 will work.
4. Include multimedia. Reports have shown that including multimedia, such as video and images, in your release can increase the likelihood of it being seen by as much as 80%. Also make sure that this content is optimized for search engines with appropriate keywords and tags.
5. Keep it to the point. The most important part of your release is the headline and first paragraph. Draft an informative, yet concise, first paragraph that gets the Who, What, When, Where and Why out immediately. Once you’ve got a great intro paragraph, fill in the rest of the release with supporting details. For maximum SEO impact, most experts suggest keeping the word count of your release under 500 words.
6. Include your boilerplate. Your company’s “About Us” boilerplate is a great place to include relevant keywords. But remember, keep it short. Your boilerplate doesn’t need to be longer than your actual press release.
7. Post your release to your website. Many companies neglect their own press rooms which can present an issue for press looking for a quick resource. By posting your release into a unique page on your website—and not as link to a PDF—you can also increase its likelihood of getting picked up by search engines.
8. Do your homework and pitch. Take time to determine which media outlets, and specifically, which individual members of the press, are appropriate for covering your news. Research what they cover and how they cover it. Then send personalized pitches to those appropriate members of the press, explaining why this announcement is news and more importantly, why this announcement is relevant to their outlet and/or readers.
9. Get social. By now, you’ve likely got your social media networks up and running, so share your press release with your social networks. Post links to your online release on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Utilize social media services such as PitchEngine (www.pitchengine.com) which will allow you to develop, post and share your social media release, including your images and video, to the world.
10. Consider distribution services. Earlier I mentioned that wire services, or distribution services, were a PR practice of the past. Distribution services, however, are actually still very effective. Wire services can enhances your SEO impact by delivering your release to hundreds and thousands of online sites, giving you an extra SEO boost and are certainly worth considering if you’re looking for maximum coverage.
While these tips will help you get going in the right direction with your next press release, it’s important to keep in mind that the success of your press release will always depend on relevancy. So make sure your press release adds some type of value to the press and your audiences.
Scott Moody is the Director of Public Relations at Marketing Matters (http://www.marketingmatters.net), a communications and design firm specializing in technology, consumer and custom electronics, audio-video, and related industries.