Category Archives: Content Marketing

The key to press release success: multiple visual elements [Study + infographic]

Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views, a study by PR Newswire found.

Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views, a study by PR Newswire found.

How can you get better results with your press releases?  The data is in, and the answer is clear.  Visual illustration of your message is a key driver of success.

PR Newswire’s analytics team recently updated – and significantly expanded – our analysis of press release types, and the results each produces in terms of online views.  For the most recent iteration of this ongoing analysis, we looked at every press release viewed on PRNewswire.com last year, regardless of when it was issued.  Well over one million press releases were measured. 

For the analysis, we broke the release types into the following buckets:

  • Text Only
  • Text + one visual asset, such as a single image or video
  • Text + multiple visuals
  • Fully loaded multimedia press releases and campaign microsites

The results are clear – visuals drive more content views, and adding multiple media assets to your content (press releases, and anything else you publish online, for that matter) generates even better results.

Why visuals improve results:  

One visual is good, more are better.   There are a few reasons why this is the case.

  • Each visual is distributed in its own right, and has its own potential for garnering attention.  In addition to the distribution of visual content the brand either pays for or executes on its own, each visual also has the potential to trigger social sharing, further expanding the audience for the message.
  • Visuals surface story elements that may be overlooked by readers, giving your messages second (and third) chances at connecting with readers.  It’s easy to overlook a theme that’s presented in the middle of the fourth paragraph. However, calling attention to that theme with a visual – a video snippet or image – can help connect that message with readers who care, and who might have glanced over the message initially.
  • Journalists and bloggers are also hunting for visuals to illustrate the digital media they create. While they may not use the visuals your brand provides in their original form,  they will often edit video to fit their stories or derive new works from infographics.  Additionally, including visuals communicates that the story is one that can (and should be) illustrated visually, which will increase the story’s appeal for many digital content creators.

Many communicators note they don’t have ready access to related images when asked why they don’t use more multimedia in their press releases.  Our new Media Studio tool – free for clients using the Online Member Center to upload content for distribution, enables you to store, organize, size, caption and tag images for use in digital content.

If you’d like to speak to someone on our team about adding visuals to your press releases, please contact us here: http://promotions.prnewswire.com/standout2014.html

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Press Releases, PR Newswire and Panda

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire are designed to help improve press release content quality.

In late May, Google rolled out an update to its Panda algorithm that targeted low quality content, affecting a variety of content distributors and press release websites, including PR Newswire.   By “low quality content,” we’re referring specifically to press releases that were used in efforts to manipulate search rankings.   These releases were of little-to-no redeeming value for readers.

In an ensuing audit of the content of our site, we identified the spam press  releases which had had been generating inordinately high inbound links and traffic due to the black hat SEO tactics their issuers employed.  Those releases have since been deleted, and we’ll be monitoring our site content for unusual levels of inbound links, traffic and other red flags on an ongoing basis.

Distribution is about more than just one web site

While we’re proud of the fact that our web site attracts millions of unique visitors each month, it’s important to remember that PR Newswire has also spent years building a comprehensive distribution network that reaches a vast global audience, including:

  • Thousands upon thousands of media outlets, via direct news feeds;
  • More than 30,000 credentialed journalists and bloggers, via PR Newswire for Journalists;
  • Information databases like Factiva and LexisNexis;
  • More than 10,000 websites worldwide, who display feeds of relevant news releases designed for their audiences;
  • The social web, via dozens of carefully curated, industry- and topic-specific presences on Twitter and Pinterest.

PR Newswire has cultivated an engaged and high-quality audience for press release content.

Our media relations and content syndication teams work one-on-one with media outlets, individual journalists and bloggers and website operators to create and deliver feeds of press releases germane to their areas of coverage, interest or beats.

New guidelines governing press release copy quality

To improve the content quality we distribute, we’ve started reviewing all press release submitted for distribution over the wire for content quality. As they review releases, our team will be looking at a variety of different message elements, including:

  • Inclusion of insightful analysis, original content (e.g. research, reporting or other interesting and useful information,)
  • The format of the releases, guarding against the repeated use of templated copy (except boilerplate,)
  • The length of the releases,  flagging very short, unsubstantial messages that are mere vehicles for links
  • Overuse of keywords and/or links within the message.

These new guidelines are additions to our already robust press release acceptance guidelines, which include verification of sources, authentication of the sender’s identity and attribution to the source, among other requirements that all messages must meet before distribution by PR Newswire.

Most PR Newswire customers, who write and distribute press releases with the primary intent of building awareness of key messages and earning media, will be unaffected by our new guidelines.

Press releases are about earned media, building awareness and acquiring audience

It has long been our stated position that press releases are chiefly about building awareness, and we don’t promote press releases as link building devices.   (See: Generate Awareness, Not Links, With Press Releases.)

We believe that the distribution of press releases plays a very useful role in driving content discovery, introducing new audiences to brand messages, seeding and encouraging social interaction, and, of course, earning media pick up.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

3 Reasons Why Law Firms Should Be Active on Social Media

Research conducted by Good2BSocial finds that a majority of law firms understand importance of social media but are reluctant to engage clients with it. On the other hands, top law firms in the US and UK found direct correlations between social media use and client success. As search and social become the go-to methods of finding and sharing information, law firms are slowly recognizing the business advantages of creating content to locate and engage prospects. At Business Development Institute’s recent “Social Media Marketing Summit for Law Firms,” legal experts and content marketing thought leaders discussed the importance of social media as a tool for law firms to get discovered, build credibility, and ultimately generate business.

“It should be the job of every lawyer to be active and engaging on social media,” says Guy Alvarez, chief engagement officer at Good2BSocial. The nature of the industry is changing and large, well-established law firms are facing serious competition from the smaller firms who are using technology to generate greater awareness for their brands and gain more clients. Additionally, law firms that are active on channels that law students frequently access such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have a competitive advantage in recruiting top-tier talent. As discussed at the summit, here are three reasons why law firms should be active on social media:

Social media is a discovery tool  

According to Leslie Prizant, general counsel for CarePoint Health, “Content is key but searchability and how easy it is to navigate a website is more important.” In today’s digital environment a strong web presence gives brands an air of credibility, a crucial component to the legal industry which is founded on principles of trust. But searchability is contingent upon several factors, including the quality of content a brand creates and how it is disseminated.  Solely relying on owned channels such as the company website, blog, and social media pages to spread awareness limits the reach of messages to existing followers and does not continuously acquire new audiences and influencers. This is where the importance of multi-channel distribution comes in to build credibility and generate greater brand awareness.

“The currency of a law firm is intellectual capital” says Andrew Meranus, regional vice president at PR Newswire, in reference to the importance of content creation and distribution for law firms. Distributing content through a mix of owned, earned, and paid media channels establishes legal expertise and affords brands the opportunity to be heard among new audiences and get noticed by influencers looking for expert sources. Major firms including White & Case and Fenwick West are utilizing wire distribution to promote branded content and drive traffic back to their company websites. Amplification of messages, which must be highly relevant, compelling, timely, and consistent, is what seeds social interactions and drives discoverability for the brand.

Social media is a credibility tool

“We need to be human on social media,” asserts Alvarez, “people hire lawyers not law firms.” Social tools and practices are becoming an important part of criteria that potential clients use when choosing a firm to do business with. Social intelligence tools can help monitor topics of interest and business pain points that are relevant clients and prospects, which helps firms provide the solutions that stay ahead of trends and build their credibility.

Social media is a business acquisition tool 

Hans Haglund chief business development and marketing officer at Blank Rome LLP explains that the connection between your firm’s social media strategy and business development strategy is critical. A business development analysis by Blank Rome LLP shows that efficient use of social media increases lead generation and profitability for law firms, with a lead to conversion rate of around 10 percent. It is important to note that conversions are heavily dependent upon good content that is formatted for consumption on social, is shareable, and drives traffic to company website.

Some best practices for law firms who want to create content and engage on social media include:

  1. Legal messages need to be specifically targeted to relevant audiences. Email blasts and folders with collateral are antiquated marketing methods in the digital age, but powerful content with proper context is effective.
  2. Get rid of legal jargon. Most readers are business people and they need to be able to understand the information you are providing.
  3. Make it easy for your clients and targets to share your content by including social share buttons on blog posts, your web site, and client memos.
  4. Use multimedia and share relevant content. “Visual is an emerging and very important type of content that should be used whenever possible” Alvarez recommends. Instead of a text-heavy blog post, you can create a visual representation of legal processes through infographics. Additionally, Alvarez emphasizes the value of producing videos even if they aren’t of high production quality. For example, videos taken of legal reps speaking at conferences will still be effective because audiences are more interested in the substance of that content rather than the production value.
  5. Breaker larger pieces of content into smaller pieces. There is a use for longer format but it should not be focus on social media.
  6. Include a call to action with each piece of content. Longer form pieces should be a value added piece for lead generation, with full-length PDFs and blog posts available for download in exchange for contact information.
  7. Use keywords people are searching for. If the content is out there, make sure it is available to the people who are actively seeking this information.
  8. Distribute content across multiple channels. Your digital footprint is a major factor in establishing credibility, expertise, and growing your audience.

For more insight on PR and marketing for law firms, click to view the latest blog post “Legal PR and Marketing: A Behind the Scenes Look” on Profnet Connect. 

ShannonAuthor Shannon Ramlochan is the Content Marketing Coordinator at PR Newswire. Follow her on twitter @sramloch.

 

Reality Check: Meeker’s Internet Trends Report & Notes for Communicators

Almost 20% of press release views on PR Newswire's web site  originate on a mobile device.

Almost 20% of press release views on PR Newswire’s web site originate on a mobile device.

Summary:  Mary Meeker’s most recent presentation on internet trends (given yesterday at the Re/Code Code Conference) emphasized the powerful growth of the mobile web. In this post we summarize key points from Meeker’s discussion in terms of impact for marketing and PR pros. 

As we approach the mid-year point for 2014, it’s worth taking a minute to consider trends in internet usage as we develop our PR and content marketing plans for the upcoming months.   Internet sage Mary Meeker gave a wide ranging view of internet trends yesterday at Re/Code’s Code Conference, and within her data are some findings that demand communicators’ attention.

The mobile web gathers strength

Growth in use of mobile devices – and thus, mobile internet use – is still extremely strong worldwide, but with just 30% of mobile users using smartphones, a lot of upside remains, which means the mobile web will only grow more pervasive – and important – in the months and years to come.

Even more stunning is the spectacular growth rate of tablet sales, which are growing far more quickly than PCs or laptops ever did.  The portability and intuitive design of tablets are fueling the demand for these devices.

The net effect of these trends in hardware sales is pretty profound: more and more individuals are accessing web-based content from smart phones and tablets. Meeker reported that 25% of web traffic originates from mobile devices today, up from 14% a year ago.

Changes in audience behavior

However, folks are not simply laying laptops aside and picking up their phablets instead.  Mobile devices have ushered in new behaviors, enabling people to use time on a train platform, bus or grocery store checkout line to continue following the news stories, researching the products or engaging in the conversations they were having at their desks. Certainly, there’s more competition for attention than ever, however, audiences are devoting hours of their days to online information and interaction, offering marketers new opportunities to connect.

Imperatives for communicators

Ensuring your organizations’ communications are clear and render well across a range of mobile devices is of indisputable importance today.  Rest assured, your audiences are reading your brand’s blog posts, perusing press releases and viewing videos from their phones and tablets. If the content your organization has published isn’t mobile friendly, audiences will go find content that is, taking with them valuable opportunities for your brand to inform, engage and connect with them.   Here’s a simple checklist to help ensure the content your brand is creating will resonate on the mobile web:

  • Use short, tight headlines (100 characters or so) to capture fast-moving reader attention.
  • When selecting visuals, be sure to use some that are simple and render well on small screens.  I.e. in addition to a large infographic, also include a snippet highlighting a key fact that will be easy to read on a smaller screen.
  • Have a chat with your vendors about their mobile capabilities. PR Newswire’s MediaRoom product, for example, is designed to deliver a consistent user experience for web site visitors, whether or not the client web site employs responsive design.  For sites that aren’t responsive, we’ll create a mobile-optimized MediaRoom, ensuring your PR content is usable on mobile devices (even if the brand web site isn’t.)

“Even if your organization’s website is not optimized for mobile or responsively designed, you still have options for creating an online newsroom that provides your growing mobile visitor audience with the best possible user experience,” noted Chris Antoline, our director of customer engagement and an expert in developing online press rooms.

  • Edit large files.  Create shorter (a minute or two) video clips, pull out excerpts from white papers, and break long PDFs into pieces to make it easy for mobile users to get to specific information.

So the next time you plan a campaign, think about your mobile audiences, and build content that works for them, too.  And don’t forget to include a discussion of reaching mobile audience when talking to various vendors, such as design firms, email providers or commercial newswire services, and when you prepare your 2015 budgets.  Developing communications that resonate with mobile audiences is fast becoming a cornerstone of successful communication strategies.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

8 Tips for PR Pros Who Want to Avoid Being Muted on Twitter

With Twitter’s announcement this week of the ‘mute’ feature, which will allow people to hide from their feeds tweets by Twitter accounts they follow, PR pros have to think even harder about their Twitter strategy.

You may think that because your brand has thousands of followers that you are reaching thousands of people. No. It wasn’t so before (people aren’t watching their Twitter feeds 24/7) and it may be even less so with the new mute feature.

According to Twitter, users can expect the following results when muting another Twitter account:

  • Muted users can follow you and interact with your content.
  • You can follow a user you’ve muted. Muting a user will not cause you to unfollow them.
  • @ replies and @ mentions from muted users you follow will still appear in your Notifications tab.
  • Muted users you follow can still send you a direct message.
  • When you mute a user, their previous Tweets will still be displayed; only Tweets from the point you muted them will be hidden.

From the receiving end of managing brand Twitter accounts, this feature could be useful. You can silence someone tweeting in a manner you don’t like while still leave the communication lines open. They can still message you (unlike blocking) and they can still send you a direct message (unlike unfollow).

But the situation is not so appealing from the other side of the coin. People can mute your brand and simply forget about you. You’ll think you have a lot of followers listening, but you might be wasting resources better spent elsewhere.

So how can you prevent your brand from being muted, or even unfollowed by your followers?

As I started to write my thoughts on this subject it occurred to me that I should ask the PR Newswire audience what would drive them to hit mute, so I posted the following question on Twitter and Facebook:

Tweet ie mute button May 13 2014

And here are the responses I got most often:

  1. High frequency: Don’t tweet excessively. Too many tweets, too often, or in a short span of time is very annoying to people.
  2. Too promotional: Mind your manners. All brands need to find their balance in content that is simply useful to their audience and what is simply self-promotional.
  3. No engagement: Talk to people. If all you’re doing is broadcasting your messages and not engaging your audience you are missing the point of social media, and your Twitter account won’t be very interesting to follow. Of course there are exceptions. Newsfeeds like @AP, for example.
  4. Non-relevant tweets: If you are a fashion brand and frequently post about football or politics, you will probably lose audience. And that goes the other way around too.
  5. Too personal: This is business. Having some human/personal touch to a brand Twitter account can be very useful to connecting with people, but you have to know your boundaries.
  6. Too many @’s and #’s:  Overused, they can make reading a chore. There are times when you are going have a lot of mentions and hashtags, like during a Twitter chat, but it shouldn’t be a daily thing.
  7. Boring! I don’t think this needs any explanation. You don’t have to be entertaining, but you do have to hold people’s attention.
  8. Too much automation: some automated tweets mixed with human curation and engagement can work fine. But again, we have to mind the frequency.

These responses are a clear reminder to all of us about what people expect and what people will tolerate.  In general, people appreciate useful content and don’t mind the occasional promotional message, but we have to strike the right balance. We have to know and understand our audience.

Of course, one concern with the new mute feature is that people may hit mute during a Twitter chat when you are posting a lot, intending to un-mute you later, of course. But what if they forget?

In that case, you better be unforgettable. As PR pros we all need to make sure that people would miss us if we were silenced.

At least one respondent on Twitter stated she wouldn’t bother with the mute. She would just unfollow:

Diversify distribution of your brand’s content with SocialPost from PR Newswire.  We’ve created dozens of topic-specific channels, curated by real humans, to deliver your messages to broader online audiences. 

 

Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire and is the original voice behind @PRNewswire. She leads the media relations team that provides customer service to the members of PR Newswire  for Journalists, and in her spare time, she Instagrams the world around her.

Why Storytelling Matters for PR

There’s a lot of talk about storytelling today amongst communicators, and for good reason.   In our frenetic, always-on, socially-connected, information fueled environments, information is continually washing over us.  A few things stick, and those are generally stories.

The key to a good story is found in the audience’s ability to relate strongly to something in the story, which naturally builds affinity.  And affinity is important to brands.

A good narrative can also spur the audience to act.  The best social media campaigns are all underpinned with strong stories.

Developing the ability to weave storytelling into unexpected places – such as press releases or executive profiles, for example – can have myriad effects.  Stories can help journalists understand the impact of announcement, and drive news coverage.  A compelling story can inspire prospective customers to act, and engage more deeply with a brand.

Stories are more than flash-in-the-pan campaign tactics.  They build pulling power over time, which means different KPIs should be employed to measure their effects.   Traffic to the web site over time, message virality and the quality of the leads generated over time are all measures that communicators can use to gauge the impact of the stories their brands tell, providing more opportunity to connect PR to top line revenue results.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Google: How Earned Media Impacts Search & New KPIs for PR

Earned media and implied links, visualized by Brawn Media.

Summary:  Brand mentions and earned media comprise the implied links Google has patented as part of its search algorithm, codifying the impact PR has on search results.  lil tweet

In a patent for search engine ranking methods that was granted on March 25, Google codified the role earned media plays in search rank.  The patent describes how the search engine values “implied links,” which it describes as a reference to a target resource [i.e. a web site or web page] such as a citation, but does not include an express link to the resource, as part of its process for determining the search rank of a web page.

What are these implied links?  In a nutshell, they are relevant earned mentions, and run the gamut from media pick up to references on blog posts to mentions in discussion groups.

“What does all this mean? It means that once a connection is made by someone typing in a brand name or other search query and then clicking on a site it creates a connection in Google’s eyes,” SEO expert Simon Penson explained in a Moz.com post about brand mentions. “The search engine can then store that info and use it in the context of unlinked mentions around the web in order to help weight rankings of particular sites.”

The implications for public relations are significant.  The mentions your PR campaigns create in turn generate audience activity, which Google watches in the aggregate and uses to inform search results.   In an excellent blog post on this topic titled, “Google Validates that PR is SEO in Patent Filing,” Christopher Penn of Shift Communications concludes:

“Google is publicly acknowledging that every time your brand gets a mention in a story, that counts as an implied link that affects your SEO, that affects how many links there are to your website, which in turn affects how well your site shows up when someone is searching for your brand. In short, PR is SEO (or part of it). It singlehandedly validates all of the PR that you’ve generated for your brand, all of the mentions and citations that you’ve accrued through hard work, great products and reputation, and effective public relations, even if you didn’t necessarily get an explicit link in the coverage.”

I agree with Penn’s assessment.  Public relations builds awareness and credibility that influence audience behavior.  Part of the ongoing struggle we have with measurement is due to the fact that those coveted media clips don’t capture the follow-on changes in audience behavior they can inspire.

The new KPIs for PR & an important caveat

Don’t assume that more is better when it comes to “implied links.”  Google is a stickler for relevance and quality, and the company is continually refining its search algorithm to deliver ever-better results for users.   In doing so, Google have specifically targeted web spam and are emphasizing the value of authentic earned media. Tactics designed to create artificial references to a brand or organization won’t work, and brands employing them may risk incurring penalties from Google, disappearing from search results altogether.

However, it’s also important to note that what we consider “earned,” has evolved.   While Google’s search chief is on record saying that the company does not use social signals as part of its ranking algorithm, this does not mean that activity generated from social media users has no effect on search.  There’s no doubt that inbound traffic and time spent on a web page are important factors that Google watches.  Driving discovery and social sharing of your brand’s owned content is an important first step in generating the references to your company or brand that comprise the ‘implied links’ Google values.  And sparking social sharing under a relevant hashtag on Twitter, professionals on LinkedIn or interested consumers on other networks will generate the sort of quality traffic and ongoing activity on which Google’s algorithm places high values.

With all this in mind, here are a few KPIs (key performance indicators) public relations professionals should use to gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns in driving lasting value for their organizations.

Search query volumes:  Increases in the volumes of search queries that include either brand terms, or terms strongly associated with the brand, industry or product that lead visitors to the organizations’ web site are difficult to measure perfectly – Google masks a lot of search query data – but some does make it through to the web analytics programs organizations use to tabulate web traffic.   Talk to your web metrics guru about gaining access to the reports.    Important note:  you’ll also need to connect with team handling web site optimization for your organization about what keywords and phrases they’re targeting, and which URLs are associated with each term.    You’ll want to make a point of using those terms (or near derivatives) when relevant to your message and you’ll also want to include links to the related target URL in your releases, too.)

Inbound traffic to specific web pages: We’ve previously discussed the importance of including a URL to specific (and relevant!) web page in press releases, rather than dumping readers onto the homepage and forcing them to search for information related to what they read in the release.  These links are trackable, and working with your organization’s web team, you should be able to measure increases in inbound traffic to specific pages.  (Coordination with your web and inbound marketing teams is crucial.)

Lead quality or conversion rate:  What happens once someone has clicked on a link you placed in a press release?  The next step that visitor takes is an important one on the buying journey, and it’s something your marketing team is paying close attention to.  In many cases, a subsequent call to action on the web page will offer the visitor more content, such as a video or offer of a white paper download. The marketing team looks at the conversion rate (the percentage of time a prospect actually completes a transaction) and they may be scoring the quality of the leads the web site garners along the way.  The PR team can have a tremendous impact in generating an influx of well-qualified prospects to the organization’s web site.   If you’re tracking the traffic PR generates through trackable URLs, you can also track the quality of those leads, and the subsequent conversion rates. This is the sort of data that can be equated to revenue and will make a CFO sit up and take notice.

Improved search rank for key pages: Increases in search rank for key web site pages for specific sets of terms.  Over time, the implied links and earned media the PR team generates should have a positive effect on the search ranking of specific pages on the brand’s web site.  Garnering those results – and maintaining them, which requires sustained effort – are some of the truest measures of the value of the media and mentions the brand has earned.

The power of earned media has long been indisputable, but tough for PR to measure.  With Google’s acknowledgement of its role in determining search results, public relations pros can connect their campaigns to the online interactions that drive revenue for the organization.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.