Rethinking Press Release Tactics To Meet Evolving Audience Preferences

On yesterday’s “The Science of Press Releases” webinar with Dan Zarrella of Hubspot, we discussed an array of findings about press release viewing, usage and sharing that I’m sure raised a few eyebrows. The webinar, in case you missed it, featured Dan’s findings after he crunched an enormous amount of press release data – metrics and analytics both – PR Newswire provided.

Here’s a look at the deck we presented:

Some of the findings were pretty surprising, including:

Views (the number of times a press release is viewed on PRNewswire.com)

  • More press releases are viewed on Saturday & Sunday than any other day
  • The wee hours of the morning (between midnight and 1 a.m. Eastern, specifically) see a real spike in press release views.  The start of the workday (9 a.m.) and the early evening also see a higher than average number of press release views.

Engagement (the number of times a reader of a press release takes another action with the press release, such as clicking on embedded links, sharing it on social networks, emailing or printing it, etc.)

  • Engagement activities do not map to views.  Mondays show the greatest engagement, and engagement tails off toward the end of the week.
  • That said, the wee hours of the morning do see more readers engaging with press release content than at other times.

Media views (the number of times a press release is viewed by a registered PR Newswire for Journalists member)

  • Media views did map to views overall – more press releases are viewed by media and bloggers over the weekends
  • Apparently media and bloggers are early birds, in extremis. Most views happen in the wee hours of the morning, or before the work day (7 a.m. ET).

Headlines

  • Across the board, the headline lengths that generated the most views were in the 120 character range

Multimedia

  • Releases with embedded photos and video drove more views
  • However, releases with video showed lower engagement than releases with photos.

These findings are all interesting, and some are pretty surprising, and they beg us to rethink some of the conventional thinking around press releases.

Social sharing:

  • Sharing of press releases on Facebook spikes on the weekend, and also on Thursdays.
  • Press releases are shared on Facebook at a dramatically higher rate early in the late afternoon and early evening (between 6 and 7 p.m. ET.)

Timing:

PR Newswire’s highest volume days are Tuesday and Wednesdays. While news from public companies is generally issued either before or after the markets close, the timing of press release distribution is often dictated by when all the approvals are finalized or timing around a particular event such as a conference call, press conference or release of other content.

In my mind, timing depends upon your primary audience.  Public companies and others with specific regulatory constraints may need to hew to the traditional timing model. However, for others who aren’t so burdened, it may be time to experiment.

“Staggering” distribution:

More than a few PR folks tweeted unhappily about working round the clock after seeing the data revealing that press release readers are real night-owls.   However, I think it’s important to remember that press releases are easily found after they’re distributed.

As I looked at the readership data, I wasn’t thinking that we need to change the timing of press release distribution wholesale.  But I do think there’s plenty of opportunity to target different audiences and serve content up directly to them at different times.

So what does this mean?   I think it’s still perfectly OK to issue press releases during the work day, during the work week.  PR pros do not need to worry about working nights and weekends (any more than they already do!)   But you can certainly atomize the content and convey different bits and pieces to key audiences.  What do I mean?

  • Pitch the story later in the day to key journos and bloggers.
  • Share the content on Facebook in the evening, and start posting status updates for your brand when YOU are on Facebook yourself.
  • Tweet interesting tidbits and pieces of data from the press release throughout the day.
  • If possible, publish any related content (a short slide deck, images, a video) or a blog post offering more perspective after the release is issued – and update your channels accordingly
  • Watch for interaction and commentary from your audience, and respond.  Don’t leave the conversation hanging.

If you read this blog, you know that I’ve been musing on the concept of  agile engagement as a new model for PR, defining it as a move from campaign-based communications (which, let’s face it, the traditional issuing of a press release is) to an adaptive and always-on presence.  While the ‘always-on’ piece can pose a bit of a challenge, the underlying press release usage data indicates that our audiences are always on – so it stands to reason that some of our strategies need to evolve accordingly.

We’re not done with this re-think, not by a long shot.  Coming soon, we’ll discuss headlines, targeting and multimedia elements.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

21 responses to “Rethinking Press Release Tactics To Meet Evolving Audience Preferences

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