Emerging low-cost methods for press release and news distribution now make it possible to highlight your organization as never before. Press releases are quick, and often easy, to produce and disseminate. That’s part of their continued appeal and why many organizations immediately turn to them whenever it is time to promote something new and different.
It also creates a conundrum: What should you promote using a press release? And what information is better suited for a marketing piece, advertisement or social media promotion?
While many traditional guidelines regarding the creation and distribution of press releases remain highly relevant, companies must begin to rethink their announcements and tailor their topics, writing, focus and distribution to new audiences using emerging methods.
Consider the following:
Your audience is changing: Years ago, PR pros wrote press releases so that a reporter or editor would “bite” on a story. With the Internet, more non-journalists are reading your press releases—including your customers, employees, former staff, business partners and competitors. You are directly communicating to all of these audiences. What messages do you want to send them?
Also consider that more people outside your industry, including your prospects, will see your news. Perhaps a business manager is looking for a technology solution or a new vendor, but finds your press release on your new product to be too confusing to comprehend. Maybe a potential customer reads about your service, only to be distracted by the marketing lingo and lack of focus within your press release.
Unfortunately, too many press releases make sense only to the people who wrote them. Other announcements are steeped with flowery, empty marketing copy. Write releases so they make sense to a wider audience beyond your employees and veteran trade reporters. And please forgo the marketing speak.
It’s not just about you: Thanks to technology, we tailor the news we want to see and chose when, where and how we use media. The audience for your news expects the same.
It is no longer enough to post a press release about how your company is teaming up with another firm to boost profit. You’ve got to show how the partnership is going to help your audience and the end user. Many organizations get wrapped up a cycle of excessive self promotion. You must communicate why your message is relevant to the reader or they will ignore you.
Focus on getting your press release out only to relevant audiences and media. With the availability of information and new technology tools, it only takes a little time to focus your pitch to relevant reporters. Yet too many PR practitioners are continuing to take the lazy way out and spam out their messages to thousands of irrelevant reporters.
Is it Wireworthy? Some organizations distribute every press release using a wire service. It’s a great approach, provided you have the budget and are very selective of your news topics. But given new alternative approaches—for example, posting a release to your Web site, emailing your in-house opt-in list, and distributing links to your news via Twitter and to your LinkedIn contacts—you can now produce releases about more minor topics, such as a local award win or a new manager-level hire, that may not have been worthy of a press release. Posting this new content to your Web site will improve your search engine optimization efforts.
Just because it is now possible to produce and post news releases at little or no cost, it doesn't mean you can cease distinguish between what is newsworthy and what is not. You can determine an announcement’s newsworthiness on a case-by-case basis. If your organization has a steady stream of news, consider creating specific guidelines—ranging from a one-page general list, to a detailed multi-page document with examples—to use in “vetting out” each opportunity. Uphold your guidelines and you will ensure high quality and consistency with each announcement.
Now that PR practitioners play an even greater role in deciding what makes the news, it is up to us to make every announcement highly relevant and important to our audiences.
Rachel Hunt is account director of the DPR Group.