If you tuned in last week to the Bulldog Reporter PR University webinar Mastering Interactive News Releases: 7 PR Secrets of Digital Press Releases That Woo Editors and Wow the Public, you likely came out with more than seven secrets.
The powerhouse panel of social media and PR experts included:
- Taylor L. Cole (@TravelwithTLC), director of PR and social media with Hotels.com;
- Melanie Moran (@melaniemoran), executive director of integrated communications for Vanderbilt University News and Communications;
- Shade Vaughn (@shadevaughn), director of PR and events with Rosetta;
- Serena Ehrlich (@serena), director of social & evolving media with Business Wire; and
- Sarah Skerik (@sarahskerik), vice president of social media with PR Newswire/MultiVu
It’s no secret that today’s Internet and media inboxes are overflowing with news releases announcing products and services, financial earnings, changing staff, and more. But with so many of these releases competing for the same eyeballs in newsrooms, standing out from the pack requires finesse and clever packaging, particularly in this digital era.
Some highlights that came out of the webinar (#realworldpr) included Bulldog Reporter PR University training director Brian Pittman’s list:
- Consider multiple/tailored releases to different audiences and verticals.
- Always use unique and trackable URLS. (Example: Bit.ly)
- Include a “click to tweet” link within the press release, near the top of the content.
- Keep headlines to 100 characters or fewer. This is also good for subject lines when sending out release as a pitch ancillary/support.
- Write for mobile first. Craft mobile-ready copy. Think short sentences and graphs, punchy quotes, and use micro content principles. (Example: The main facts/5Ws could be listed as bullets so they’re easily scanned on mobile.)
- Always include a call to action. (Example: “Click here to download app” or “click here for a fact sheet.” This would then tie to the first bullet above and would be trackable.)
- Make all content portable. When possible, generate your press release content so it can be “broken apart” into pieces of mini content. (Example: Can your pull quote stand alone and be tweeted or shared on Facebook? Can your graphic be shared with a cutline that provides the key facts? Can your video stand alone?)
The panel also stressed the importance of SEO keywords.
The right keywords can improve readership of your release, the group agreed.
Business Wire’s Ehrlich shared some of her favorite keyword tools: SpyFu and Google AdWords.
When it comes to paid distribution, wire services still tend to be the “best place to get your message out there,” Ehrlich said.
PR Newswire’s Skerik agreed, noting that syndication of press releases and other branded content drives discovery of that information by new audiences, which in turn seeds new social interaction and page traffic.
“You really need to look at press releases in the grand scheme of your overall success,” Erlich added. “Understand the real size of your audience. The smaller and more micro you go, the better chance you have of getting coverage. Build your superfans.”
These digital influencers require regular doses of good information to stay engaged. Skerik pointed to the fact that influence is changing.
“There’s constant feedback,” Skerik said. “Communications campaigns need to support this feedback loop. It’s less ‘Ready, aim, fire’ and more about connecting a living and breathing presence for your brand.”
Consider also the folks on the receiving end of content might be changing. Skerik mentioned the Chicago Sun-Times newsroom, which recently fired its photography department, Pulitzer Prize winners and all.
It used to be that large, glossy photos on the front of the newspaper would drive newsstand sales. With media moving farther in the digital direction, arming editorial departments with iPhones and simple photography basics appears to be more accepted.
Press releases with a multimedia strategy – photos, video, audio, or infographics – always will trump those without.
Why do these visuals work? Because photographs are worth about 60,000 words.
“Visuals have their own their own distribution networks,” Skerik said. Shade Vaughn agreed, noting that for Rosetta, including visuals in press releases improves search visibility and brand awareness.
Online newsrooms also need compelling photos, must be easy to search, and have prominent contact information, added Moran, with Vanderbilt University.“A robust cutline describes the story,” Moran said. “That’s your news release in a few lines of text.”
Vaughn, with Rosetta, said the company focuses a lot of time and attention on thought leadership. Rosetta publishes white papers to its site, maintains a blog, and does a great deal of social promotion behind each piece.
Vaughn uses PR Newswire and said the Visibility Reports dashboard is particularly helpful in tracking metrics relating to the story’s online performance, something the company carefully manages as each message is structured.
“For every release, we create a page title and meta description unique to the press release,” he said. “Write [press releases] to communicate the purpose of the announcement, not to sell. Simplify.”
Finally, Hotels.com’s Cole advised working with other brands to extend the life of your news.
“If your release is the hub, you have to get it right. Headline, subhead, call to action,” Cole said. “Communications is a two-way conversation.”
Cole also reminded the audience how important it is to align PR messaging with other marketing and communications objectives, both in terms of how the press release will be used and how the results will be measured. The links offered within press releases are a great opportunity for measurable collaboration. Hotels.com always includes links within their press releases.
“Link once or twice to useful content that is really relevant to what your reader wants to do,” Cole noted, emphasizing the connection between digital messages and the subsequent actions readers take with the content. PR messages can bring new people into the company’s sales pipeline, and providing useful links is one way to capture and cultivate audience interest.
Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. Follow her @cpcube.