In praise of the press release

In praise of the press release

The press release or news release is often debated on this blog. It's a form of corporate communications content and workflow that is more than 100 years old. Who better to speak up for the form than Business Wire's director of social and evolving media?

By Serena Ehrlich

Serena Ehrlich 2018 Headshot.jpg

2017 was a great year for the press release and 2018 is going to be even better.

Why? Because thanks to broader amplification tools and changes within both the media environment and buyer journeys, press releases drive significant return on investment.

Smart organisations are benefiting from awareness, engagement, traffic and a positive impact on business goals. All from a press release.

Press release basics

A press release sets out an organisation’s news and the impact of that news on their target audience. It is the document people reference for the facts about a product, service or topic.

Nielsen’s biennial Trust in Advertising study cites editorial coverage as a highly trusted content piece, with an average trust rating of 66% by key audiences.

Press releases educate and activate editorial coverage. Reporters use them to write news articles, often linking to the news release to allow readers easy access to the source data.

Today, customers, search engines and reporters treat the press release as a credible document often referred to as source news. News releases and editorial coverage frequently appear at the top of search.

This is because search engines like Google long ago realised that search users search for and read coverage and press releases when making business decisions.

Commercial wires drive news discovery

The success of the press release is directly tied to how many relevant people see it.

If you share it with 10 people, your success is limited to those 10 and anyone they choose to tell. Newswires like Business Wire, however, provide broad reach and placement of news releases, to ensure easy discoverability by all interested parties.

This is why using a commercial newswire to distribute your news is so important.

They maintain trusted relationships with financial audiences, reporters, editors and bloggers as well as global newswires like AP and AFP, search engines, social channels and more.

Newswires provide the opportunity for discovery and action by customers, media outlets, brand fans and financial analysts.

Optimise your press release to increase value

Press releases are tools public relations practitioners use every day. If a release is not driving return on investment it’s time to change your approach.

So how do you create a news release that works across different audiences, ultimately increasing the return on investment of your news programme?

  1. Add Context - Write a headline that clearly defines your news and its impact. Show the relevancy of your news to your readers.
  2. Add Content - Press releases today must have multimedia images. Images are the body language of your news.
  3. Increase the reach - Maximise your visibility within your core and secondary audiences with newswires, search, social and ad platforms.

Add context to headlines

If your press release is not meeting your goals, the first thing to look at is your headline. Is it interesting? Does it feature industry terms? Does it answer the question, “Why should I care?”

If not, consider using Google Trends to help you construct your headline.  Learn how to write a useful, successful news release headline.

When you construct a headline today, you are writing for two distinct audiences: reporters who want to cover highly relevant and interesting news, and consumers looking to make business or product purchase decisions.

The first five to seven words of your headline are your key activation opportunity. These words appear first in the reporter’s editorial queue and make up your published news release’s URL string.

The more aligned these words are with the challenges facing your industry, the more likely reporters are to be interested in your story and for decisions makers to find and act upon your news from search engines and social channels.

Visuals: adding body language to your text

65% of the world are visual learners.  So why is your news release text-only? Many of today’s reporters can’t even publish a story without multimedia and study after study shows that multimedia is a key component of both article readership and news shares on social channels.

Add a video or a photograph that showcases your product, service or thought in action. Utilize infographics to visually connect your data with your positioning. Think of your multimedia asset as the body language of your news release.

PESO: increasing reach with paid tools

Once your news release has reached reporters and consumers, it is time to look at additional ways to use this highly trusted content to shorten your sales cycle consideration time and reengage those in your sales funnel.

Two of the easiest ways to do this is through contextual ad networks and Google or Facebook retargeting. 

Contextual ad networks place your news release and/or coverage pieces in Sponsored Stories article blocks across the web.

Content is scanned by algorithms and placed within ad blocks, next to likeminded editorial content. The goal is to trigger content binge reading by placing your content next to similar news stories. The content is continuously moved across the web to find the placements that drive the highest engagement.

Retargeting advertising programs allow you to follow site visitors after they leave your landing pages. If your potential customer comes to your page, but does not follow through with an action, you can target them with ads once they leave your site.

Smart practitioners are finding that highlighting editorial coverage and news releases to these audiences helps recapture lost traffic and increase conversions.

Measuring the value of a news release

Thanks to technology, we can now see the impact of press releases directly upon business goals. Some of the data generated by news releases include:

  • Potential coverage
  • Increased visibility of news/organisation
  • Increased awareness of key data points
  • Increased discussions within target audience groups
  • Geo-impact
  • Unintentional generation of discussions in secondary groups
  • Social advocacy
  • High placement in search for release and coverage
  • Multimedia usage
  • Owned channel registrations

Finally, thanks to URL builders and UTM links, inbound traffic data includes traffic breakdowns, time on site, audience location and device choice, their actions taken and conversions.

About Serena Ehrlich

Serena is Business Wire's director of social and evolving media. She provides guidance for internal and external content creation and distribution services, ranging from public relations programming to mobile marketing and social media updates.

Over the last 25 years, Serena has provided guidance on investor relations, public relations and overall consumer behaviour relations trends. Serena started her career in advertising where she developed an understanding of branding from a large-scale perspective, but she credits her 18 years in the newswire industry for placing her at the forefront of the technical, sociological and influential revolution changing the face of today’s customer communications.

You can connect with Serena on Twitter @Serena.

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