Although some PR pros maintain that press releases are no longer effective, they have not disappeared. News releases may have evolved, but they remain a core public relations tool for businesses of all sizes. Polished publicity releases can be especially effective for smaller businesses and local businesses that don’t have large marketing budgets.
Besides distributing press releases to the media in the traditional fashion, businesses can place them on the company website, publicize them through social media, and distribute them to bloggers and other social media influencers with some adaptations. Owned media is a crucial distribution channel. News releases posted on a company’s website can sometimes attract more traffic than media articles reporting the news.
Simply writing a press release about anything and distributing it helter-skelter to publishers is unlikely to produce meaningful results and may even backfire. Journalists will ignore it or even be annoyed. To be successful, news releases must be planned, written, illustrated and disseminated properly.
Before you distribute a press release, ask yourself the following questions.
Is it newsworthy? In other words, why should readers care? The poor reputation of press releases stems from the fact that companies issue news releases for self-centered announcements that have little or no interest to others. The release should be unique, new and informative or helpful for your audience. “New” is the biggest part of “news.” Quality releases tell a news or feature story; they are not advertisements or marketing pamphlets.
Who is your audience? Consider which markets your organization targets – and, just as importantly, which audiences are likely to be interested in your announcement. Is your audience comprised of consumers or business professionals? Will you target a geographic area, business topic or a certain type of professional? Defining your audience will help find relevant material and determine how best to distribute and promote the release. Aiming at specific audiences through targeted distribution, such as niche publications and trade journals in your industry, is a basic requirement for news release success.
Is the news release optimized for search engines? Search engine marketing (SEO) is now an essential PR and marketing element for any business. SEO can increase your search engine ranking, drive more traffic to your website, and improve the quality of traffic. Include keywords in the headline, subheads, anchor link text, and within the body of the text. Be warned that Google’s algorithm punishes content mills that churn out releases filled with spammy, “unnatural” links. Follow Google’s rules about anchor text, and avoid stuffing the release with keywords by repeating them.
Is it well written? Well-written press releases are succinct, straightforward and free of clichés and industry buzzwords. Placing the hook in the headline and first sentence can win attention – especially from journalists or editors who decide whether or not to publish the story. If distributing the release through email, include your key pitch point in your email cover note.
Do you have a quote? A vibrant quote from a top executive or company expert can personalize and spice up the release. They offer the best device to add flair to news releases, and other PR content, yet most executive quotes fall flat. Long-winded quotes filled with jargon and flowery praise for company products will probably be deleted.
What visuals do you have? Research shows that most people including journalists tend to learn better through visuals and are more likely to interact with images, videos and audio. Editors are more likely the run stories that include interesting visuals. PR experts recommend including color images rather than black and white ones, and combining words and images to improve the viewer’s comprehension. In today’s multimedia age, audio and video files can also help obtain placements, especially in digital publications.
Did you proofread it? Without thorough proofreading, an embarrassing mistake will eventually appear in a publication. More than a few PR agencies and departments have faced angry executives, suffered public ridicule, and lost revenue due to proofreading oversights such as misspelled names in headlines, incorrect prices and wrong dates for company events. Following recommended proofreading practices can help spot errors and avoid embarrassment. Also remember to check the contact information and basic boilerplate background.
How will you distribute the press release? PR people can build their own media databases with a spreadsheet and some earnest research. Many experienced PR pros now recommend against paying for news release distribution services, except under a few situations. Commercial news release distribution services place news releases in front of few, if any, relevant journalists. The services can place the release on online news sites, but the public often has no way to find the link. Google does not index the link, and it cannot be located through the site’s home page. Instead of relying on press release distribution services, build a targeted list of news outlets, develop relationships with reporters, and send news announcements directly to media outlets you know and who know you.
When will you distribute it? Releasing news releases on the wrong days can sink or seriously harm a PR campaign. Unless your announcement involves time-sensitive breaking news, avoid issuing news releases on certain days, such as just before a long weekend or when large corporations are hogging media attention. Some businesses avoid distributing news releases during the holiday season unless they have a seasonal connection, but that time offers PR opportunities because PR activity slows.
Where else can you use it? Repurposing the release can get more mileage out of the content. PR can modify and expand the release for a company blog or create a video interview based on the release.
How will you measure success of the press release? Demonstrating the value of news releases with media measurement and website analytics improves PR’s standing in the organization. Independent subscription media monitoring and measurement services now make media analytics easier, more accurate and more informative than ever. A media monitoring and measurement service can find where the story has appeared across all media, including social media mentions that can be just as important as traditional news media placements. Seek a monitoring service that offers a customizable PR measurement dashboard that integrates results from print, online news, broadcast, social media and analytics from corporate and brand websites.
Bottom Line: Press releases remain a superb tool for spreading company news as long the business follows best practices to prepare and distribute them and tracks and measures their effectiveness. Addressing these questions will help produce effective and successful press releases that deliver measurable public relations results.
Schedule a Free Online Demo of the Glean.info Media Monitoring & Measurement Dashboard.
This post was first published on May 22, 2016, and updated on July 10, 2020.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.