Press releases, once a mainstay of public relations, have largely fallen out of fashion in some PR circles. Many PR pros criticize them as an antiquated tool. They’re full of long-winded pronouncements, corporate jargon and vacuous quotes, they say. Worst of all, they produce little or no PR results. Journalists often ignore them. Plus, the number of news outlets has shrunk drastically.
Critics of press releases say other formats are more likely to lead to news media mentions and win customers’ attention.
Shortened versions of press releases, news briefs contain one to five, preferably three, paragraphs, explains Jacob McKimm at Axia Public Relations. News briefs contain simple formatting — no headers, contact information or dates. Because news briefs are short, journalists are more likely to read them and news outlets are more likely to publish them. And they’re more likely to prompt journalists to write an article.
“Reporters like having something in writing to cover themselves with, but they don’t like something that gives little room to make their own article out of. News briefs give them enough material to make an article by themselves, even if the brief itself is short,” McKimm says.
While extremely important news warrants traditional press releases, news briefs are better suited for small and medium-sized stories, he says.
Sometimes clients or corporate bosses insist on a full-blown press release. In that case, write a press release and news brief. Send the news brief to your media contact and attach the news release to the email, with the note: “See attached news release for more information.”
Blog posts allow brands to bypass media gatekeepers and reach audiences directly. But blog posts are very different from news releases. Well-written posts:
- Address the reader’s problem.
- Offer a solution.
- Explain how the company’s product provides the solution (the pitch).
“Press releases are definitely not like this,” says Patrick Armitage, director of marketing at BlogMutt. “Press releases are canned statements by the CEO or marketing person, usually written by someone else, and have been meticulously edited, proofed and rewritten to suck the personality out of the company and the life out of the product.”
Stating benefits for readers — the more specific, the better — in the headline attracts web traffic, writes Andy Crestodina, co-founder and strategic director of Orbit Media. “The header: ‘For immediate release’ means nothing on the internet,” he says.
Unlike press releases, blog posts contain an image or images, numerous links to other blog posts, a product or service page, resources or other sites that support your article, websites of social media profiles of influencers mentioned in the post, he adds. Subheads, bullet lists, bolded and short paragraphs help make an easy read for skimmers.
Infographics, visual representations of information or data, are extremely popular. Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases, cites their advantages. Infographics:
- Clearly explain complex issues by combining text and visuals,
- Gain reporters’ attention by standing out from traditional press releases,
- Can be read quickly by reporters (and others) who are always pressed for time.
- Provide details that reporters can use to fill out their story.
- Are widely shared online because they’re easy to understand and fun to look at.
PR pros can also send infographics to website managers in their niche, says Andre Oentoro, founder of Breadnbeyond. “Aim to connect with writers, editors, content managers, and other people responsible for the website’s content,” Oentoro says. “People at the top of the food chain like owners, CEOs, or directors often won’t reply to your email.”
While PR and marketing pros can create their own infographics with affordable tools and platforms, an experienced agency can probably produce more informative and polished infographics that are more likely to achieve greater success.
The Value of Media Monitoring and Measurement
Website analytics and media measurement can help determine what formats and strategies produce the best results. Although Google Analytics provides a wealth of data about the company’s website traffic, it ignores data outside the organization’s website, including company and product mentions on news sites, blogs and social media. That requires an advanced media monitoring and measurement service. As monitoring and tracking services have become increasingly sophisticated, tracking the ROI of press releases and alternative formats has become easier than ever.
Bottom Line: While press releases may be appropriate in some circumstances, other formats can gain more attention from journalists other desirable audiences. In many cases, combining press releases with other strategies gains the most publicity and website traffic.
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Michael Kling is manager of public relations, marketing and social media at Glean.info, a media monitoring and measurement service that provides customized media monitoring and PR analytics solutions.