We’re luckier than we think, us PR professionals. We get to absorb new tools and tactics on an almost weekly basis, and yet the fundamentals that got us here still provide the bedrock.
Sure, the field is constantly evolving, but in many ways the song remains the same. We have valuable news and insight to share, and our audiences (usually) want to hear about it. From a tactical standpoint, how they digest that news and insight can vary widely, so our message delivery has to take that into account. The social, interactive nature of how news travels brings us new opportunities and this extends to the way we view press releases.
This seminal tool of PR has been competing in a jungle of media noise, and only those releases that are well written and creative enough make it through the canopy. There are a few questions we ask ourselves when crafting press releases in today’s digital landscape.
1. What do journalists want? Of course, we should be asking this when we get up every morning, anyway. And we know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but there are a few things we can do to address journalists’ needs in their releases. One constant: Journalists want to understand the story immediately. There is nothing worse than sending a pitch, story idea or press release to a reporter with a message clouded in wordy language, metaphors and buzzwords. Bottom line, with today’s 140-character or less mentality, audiences should understand the meat of the story in the headline and the lead of the release.
2. What’s in a headline? Everything. But shorter than that. Not only do headlines set the tone for the story, they also position the release’s content in a way that keeps the reader intrigued. Essentially, they tee up the “so what?” factor that drives the story and journalists’ interest. If you read your headline and can’t answer the “so what?” question, you know your point isn’t getting across. Producers, editors and bloggers won’t stick around to dig any further.
A well-written headline not only grabs the reader, but enhances online search results. SEO is an often-overlooked (but necessary) part of the effective press release equation. With the flood of content circulating on the Web, it’s important that a press release’s announcement makes it into the search rankings.
3. How can I visually tell my story? The ability to include multimedia may be the most exciting element of digital press releases, and the biggest difference from a decade ago. Visual storytelling means digital companions—whether a photo, video, slide show, infographic or chart—can be plugged in to tell the story in a simpler, eye catching, and more shareable way. Just like reporters want to understand the story in the first few lines of the text, they also like to be able to quickly glance at an interesting and short multimedia companion that captures the essence of the newsworthy information.
4. Will people want to share the information? Not every piece of news is destined for viral fame, but it’s worth asking if the client’s information is interesting enough to be spread across a wide network on digital platforms. Making content shareable is quickly becoming one of our big goals in PR—and press releases are no different.
One tactic we recommend is to add a share function on a press release through the help of a Web developer. In fact, many press release distribution services like PRWeb have the share functions built into their platform, allowing viewers to share the information straight from the Web page.
This is yet another reason why multimedia is important to include: If your hope is to have digital content go viral, including visual elements in your release in tandem with a share functionality is a great way to head down that road.
A well-written and engaging press release still serves as a launchpad for great public relations campaigns. The media industry has flirted with the notion that the press releases is dead, but we can safely say based on our day-to-day successes in the field that this is far from the truth.
The new frontier for press releases is different—interactive, shareable and smart—but this only gets us more excited. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing old school methodology rejuvenated by new school tactics. PRN
This article originally appeared in the May 5, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.