Demand More From Your Press Releases

By now it’s no secret that content is the cornerstone of today’s communications campaigns.  Interesting content fuels social media discussion, provides important fodder for search engines and it’s an integral part of automated and inbound marketing campaigns.  Public relations departments and agencies are prodigious creators of content, and much of that content is in the form of press releases.

From what I’ve seen, many press releases issued today appear to be pretty traditional in terms of formatting and goals.   In reality, today’s information environment offers more opportunity for PR pros to reach audiences and influence outcomes.  To do so, however, we need to rethink the press release. Simply put, I think it’s time for us to expect more from our press releases in terms of audience reached and outcomes delivered.

Audience:

Traditional media – and their new media audiences:  Traditional newsrooms are still the primary objective for most campaigns featuring press releases.  However, it’s important to remember that journalists at all different types of media outlets are now charged with creating content for blogs, podcasts and videos; and also for feeding the social media engines that power today’s audience engagement.  Instead of thinking about targeting a journalist, as you craft your message, think about his or her audience (and what would be interesting to them) instead.

Emerging media: Even if your news item never sees the light of day in a print publication, don’t dismiss the power of the digital realm.  Socially-connected influencers can be extremely powerful.  One simple tweet from the right person can amplify your organization’s message amongst a focused group of people who are more likely to be interested in (and act upon) your message than most of the rest of humanity.

Direct to constituents: Of course, one thing we have to think about is the simple fact that brands can now connect directly with audiences.   So, as we write press releases, we need to be thinking in terms of creating content that will resonate with our current and potential customers.  And, of course, communicators also need to pay close attention to building the channels in social networks enable this type of close communication with constituents.

Outcomes:

Media pick up …and re-Tweets?  For many issuers of press releases, media pick up is still the gold standard of desired outcomes.  But given how people consume information today, it’s worthwhile to think long and hard about re-defining what “media pick up” means to your organization.  What about that influential tweet mentioned a few paragraphs ago, and the spate of re-tweets it spawned.  What about the enthusiast blogger with a fast-growing following who is a fan of your brand?   As you plan to measure pick up, think in terms of total influence, and don’t leave any exposure on the table.

Measurable objectives:  One of the exciting things about today’s communication environment for PR professionals is that we’re finally able to make direct linkages between the messages we produce and real business outcomes.  Instead of staggering into the head honcho’s office with armloads of clip books, we can now point to web analytics that show traffic to a web page, downloads of a white paper, or the number of lead forms submitted.  However, you can’t have this happy experience if you don’t embed measurable calls to action into your press releases.

Social buzz and conversation – measured and benchmarked: “Buzz” isn’t an outcome we should really be talking about in a serious way.  In my opinion, there is a difference between “chatter” and “conversation.”    Sure, it’s nice when a press release you issue is tweeted and shared and liked and pinned – but (hopefully) its social life doesn’t end there.   To get a handle of the impact of your messages in the social sphere, keep tabs (and benchmark regularly) the key statistics that illustrate the real effect your messages are having in social channels, including:

  • Pay attention to engagement.  Are people clicking “follow” next to your brand’s handle on Twitter and then tuning you out? Or is your brand developing some real traction with the audience? Simply tracking the number of friends, fans and followers isn’t enough.  Instead, pay attention to the number of times your content is shared, the amount of traffic coming to your web site from social networks and the share of conversation your brand enjoys.  Sure, these numbers should increase as your fan base does.  However, keeping an eye on the ratios of fans to actions, for example, can give you real insight into how efficiently your organization is communicating.
  • Improvement in search engine ranking. Social signals are now among the most important ranking factors for search engines.  If you generate authentic conversation in social channels, chances are good that search engines will notice, and will vault the talked-about content to the top of the search engine results page.  And that’s good for business.

If it feels like this article took a turn into the domain of digital marketing, well, that’s because it did.  A brand’s communications – irrespective of which department actually deployed the content – end up working together online.  To get the most out of the content public relations departments are creating, they need to take a page from their marketing colleagues’ playbooks, and apply those tactics to press releases.

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

3 responses to “Demand More From Your Press Releases

  1. Wise words and yet another indication that the traditional press release is being superseded by online content. As you also point out, the performance of digital content is easier to measure than the traditional press release.

    News which may not justify a PR can still be placed on a blog & word can be spread via social media. It is also more likely to reach people who want to see the message & such people are more likely to act as well. Sometimes even a well crafted PR won’t be picked up or seen by the target audience whereas digital content can be sent, more or less, right to the target. This is bound to be more effective.

    All the best from a blogger in Italy.

  2. Malcolm Atherton

    Alex,
    I think that it is important to note that the press release (or better yet, “content advisory”) BECOMES digital content and a part of what is measured at the website side is a direct result from click-throughs from and engagement with the advisory.

    While content absolutely can and should be put on a blog and/or social media, neither medium has the same level of instant visibility and placement that a content advisory positioned on a syndicated content network like PR Newswire offers.

    I say that everything works together. A blog post abstract with a link to a specific blog post made available to thousands of sites via a network like PR Newswire’s only aids in increasing the Web Presence of that abstract, and increasing the likelihood that the content is found and engaged with. Couple that with appropriate social sharing and that blog post will can see sizable gains in visibility and reads.

  3. Pingback: PR Trends for 2013: Outcomes & Tactics | Beyond PR

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