By Maggie Aland, Staff Writer, Fit Small Business
Press releases may sound old fashioned, but they still have a place in today’s high-tech news world. Even though we can get our news 24/7 through nearly any medium we like—television, radio, internet—there’s still a place for the press release in your marketing and communications strategy.
The key to using press releases effectively is to focus them on newsworthy events. A press release is great for sharing timely, relevant news such as an event, a product release or a website launch. The best news of all is that journalists still look for press releases for news stories, albeit in a different way than they did two decades ago when print still ruled the world.
If you’re wondering whether or not a press release belongs in your marketing plan, wonder no more. These nine reasons will show you once and for all why people who say “Press releases are old fashioned” don’t understand the new realities of online PR or how to use press releases effectively.
Nine Reasons Why Press Releases Still Matter
- Grabs attention: If you’re feeling saturated with information these days thanks to social media, online news, 24/7 talk radio and television, and more, then think about how journalists feel. Journalists seeking stories have to sort through myriad resources to find something new and exciting to cover. That’s where your press release comes into the picture. By sending a well-written press release directly to journalists, you’re showcasing your professionalism. You’re also reaching out proactively to journalists, which they love. Just make sure your story is relevant to the beat (topic) the journalist covers. You can find out more about a journalist’s stories and interests through online searches.
- Builds search engine traffic: SEO stands for search engine optimization, the art and science of helping the search engines find, match, index, and rank your content favorably. Today’s press releases are tagged with keywords, and if those keywords are well-chosen, they can help your release rank well for the chosen phrases. Using press releases for SEO got a bad reputation many years ago because unscrupulous ‘black hat’ SEO practitioners flooded the internet with poorly-written, thinly-disguised marketing messages pumped full of keywords in the hope of dominating the search engine results. Today, such press releases are likely to be ignored, and the market for them has dried up. There’s still room for journalistic-style press releases in a marcom plan.
- Reaches thousands: Although direct blogger and webmaster outreach is still part of many marketing communications strategies, the only way to reach the thousands of journalists online is by using a tool that deploys press releases across multiple aggregators. Press releases sent out using professional release websites can reach many more journalists and news outlets today than ever before.
- Earns respect: There’s still something about a press release that commands respect, much more so than a sales brochure or catalog, for example. Printing and tucking a few of your company’s press releases in a leave-behind sales kit or uploading them to your company website are great ways to promote your company and build your brand.
- Presents clear facts: If you have a controversial story brewing at your company, a press release can help set the record straight by providing straightforward facts without spin to the public. These figures may be quoted by as many as 28% of journalists who do take quotations directly from a press release. While they have changed over time, there’s still a basic press release format you should follow, such as what font to use, how to space your paragraphs, and what the ideal length should be.
- Adds visual interest: Press releases today can be accompanied by infographics, pictures, and other visual aids that help tell the story. This adds interest and provides even more reasons for journalists to pick and run a press release.
- Creates additional content: A single press release doesn’t have to stand all by itself in the corner. The topic can be spun out across multiple channels such as blogs, social media messages, and more. Because press releases are fact-filled, they lend themselves easily to multiple message creation. Each fact can become its own blog post, article, or other content marketing gem that feeds your online messaging for several days or weeks.
- Expands your reach: Many companies are locked into specific messaging channels because they feel comfortable with them or they know they’ll work. Yet audiences can become fatigued to your message if you’re constantly sending information out over those channels. Press releases reach new and larger audiences then your social media sites and other brand channels. They may pique the interest of new customers over time.
- Manages your online image: With myriad ways in which people can comment on your products and brands, shaping public perception grows increasingly difficult. Press release are an ideal way to shape brand image and public perception by using consistent, factual messages to offset any untrue negative brand publicity. This helps you manage your online image more effectively in a world in which practically anyone can say anything about a company, person, or product.
Tips for Crafting Purposeful Press Releases
If you’re convinced you need a press release, then use these tips to write with purpose, clarity, and focus. Also, don’t be afraid to look for press release examples online to guide you through making your own.
- Lead with the story: Lead with the newsworthy story, not the brand story. If you’re launching a product, for example, the release should open with the launch news, not the background of the product.
- Keep headlines short: PR Newswire, a press release distribution service, recommends that headlines do not exceed 120 characters. Push the most important information into the first 65 characters of the headline. This may be the only information some aggregators display, so you want to make an impact with the first few words.
- Share the why: The ‘why’ something is newsworthy is probably the most important factor in any good press release. Why should people care? Make them care by sharing facts and background that helps readers understand the reasons why this news is important.
- Avoid excessive hyperlinks: Keep people in your story, not clicking elsewhere.
- End with a call to action: End with the desired action. Ask people to attend the event, vote online, or click a link to learn more.
With nine good reasons why press releases rock and five tips to make them stellar, you’re set to use press releases to build brand awareness, share newsworthy content, and develop your story. Press releases remain a viable and important marketing communications tool for companies big and small.