Press releases can be an incredibly powerful tool in the PR professional’s tool kit. They are one of the most effective ways to quickly and easily get a message out to a large number of media outlets. Unfortunately, just getting a message out there isn’t the end goal of most businesses.
In order to generate a true return on investment, PR initiatives must be aligned with the primary business goal of getting more customers.
Keeping this main goal—new business generation—at the forefront of all PR strategies is the best way to demonstrate value to the business as a whole. Press releases—even though the seem to be a pure outbound communications vehicle—can, in fact, play a vital role.
Press releases were originally developed as a means of communicating directly with the media, but nowadays the sheer volume of releases that are sent out each day makes it very difficult to come up with a news release that actually captures the media’s attention.
In most cases, getting media coverage for a story is more effectively accomplished through direct relationships with journalists.This doesn’t mean that press releases are useless.
On the contrary, a properly written press release that follows a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and is sent over a major newswire can be very effective at capturing the public’s attention online, especially within the first few days after it goes out.
The real question is: Once you have the attention of a targeted audience interested in reading what you have to say, what do you intend to do with it? This is where the lead generation process comes in.
Lead generation is the process by which you can convert the targeted readers of your press release into a set of valuable contacts for yourself or your client.
Effective lead generation requires a few simple steps:
▶ Get found by a relevant prospect through good SEO.
▶ Give your prospect a compelling offer so they will provide you with their contact information.
All writing should be written for your prospect’s benefit if you are going to keep them engaged. Anything that appears too self-promotional could cause them to quickly lose interest and move on to something else.
Selecting the right keywords for your SEO strategy is as much an art as it is a science. It’s important to pick keywords that are as specific as possible, since general keywords are more competitive and are difficult to rank for.
For example, if your client is a financial planner, the keyword “financial planner” returns 40.7 million search results in Google, while “fee-only certified financial planner” brings up only 255,000 results. Fewer search results means there is less competition and it will be easier to secure a top ranking with a press release.
Beyond just exploring descriptive keywords, it can also help to explore “problem based” keywords.
These are the keywords that describe the things you or your client can provide a solution for. Going back to the financial planner, an example of a problem based keyword might be “tips for investing in a Roth IRA.”
The ideal keywords have a reasonably high search volume and are relatively easy to rank for. Finding these keywords can require quite a bit of trial and error, and it helps to use a keyword research tool for this process such as Google AdWords or SEOmoz.
After identifying the keywords that you want your press release to rank for, it’s important to incorporate them into the release so they will be picked up by the search engines.
Avoid “stuffing” your press release with too many instances of your keywords, which will make it sound unnatural and can actually result in having it marked as Web spam and penalized by search engines. A general rule of thumb is to aim for a keyword density of between 0.5% and 1.5%.
A CALL TO ACTION
Good SEO is what gets your press release in front of your audience, but delivering them a compelling offer is what can convert them into leads.
This is where using a problem-based keyword can be a very effective strategy: Use your press release to give some simple advice about the problem and offer to provide readers with more detailed answers to their questions.
If the keyword used for the press release is “tips for investing in a Roth IRA,” you could include some quotes from your client providing a couple smart tips to the readers and then invite them to download your client’s free guide, “11 Essential Tips for Investing in a Roth IRA.”
The entire press release should be written around the call to action for getting the reader to go to the next step.
Your release should have only one link (to the landing page for the free guide) and it should be written around a single goal: Getting the reader to click on that link instead of hitting the back button on their browser.
LANDING PAGE DESIGN
If your call to action just leads directly to the download for your offer, you’ve missed an opportunity to capture the lead.
It’s important to use a landing page, which is a Web page that requires the person to enter their contact information in exchange for access to the valuable information you’re offering them.
Your landing page should be simple and should only include a few things:
▶ A headline and a couple paragraphs hinting at the valuable information you’re about to provide.
▶ A visually appealing image that draws the reader’s eyes to your contact form.
▶ A simple Web form requesting only the most basic contact information: name, email address, and phone number.
The goal here is to make it as simple as possible for the lead to enter their contact information, so avoid any extra navigation buttons, distracting text, or requests for too much information that you really don’t need (such as mailing address, age, annual income, etc.)
Getting contact information for leads is just the beginning. In order to convert those leads to customers, you need to build a relationship with them. Continuing to build value for sales prospects through the lead nurturing process is a proven way to establish trust.
Educating the prospects with additional content covering the same subject matter as the content they originally downloaded through your press release will reinforce your expertise and build credibility as a valued partner for them. Once the lead realizes the true value that is being provided, closing the sale is a whole lot easier. PRN
( This is an excerpt from PR News ’ Digital PR Guidebook. To order a copy, please go to http://store.prnewsonline.com/digital-pr-guidebook-vol-5.html.)
Nick Pandiscio is co-founder and COO of WolfCom. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 PR Tips for Writing Effective Lead-Generaton Press Releases
1. Know Your Audience: If you don’t understand whom you’re writing for, it’s going to be tough to write something that will connect with them. Do your research ahead of time.
2. Be Relatable: Connect with your audience on their own level. Use appropriate language and avoid any jargon that they might not understand. Write for your readers first.
3. Be Engaging: An effective press release should be written more like a good story and less like a listing of facts. Compel your audience to keep reading with a well-organized, engaging narrative.
4. Be Clear: Make sure it’s very obvious what action you’re asking the reader to take. If they don’t understand what the next step is, they won’t be able to take it. Include only a single call to action to avoid confusion.
5. Use the Power of Empathy: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and understand their wants, needs, and fears. Seeing things from their perspective is the most fundamental way to truly connect with them.