There is a lot of chatter about the current effectiveness of press releases. While “effectiveness” depends upon what is being measured, it is undeniable that the number of digitally-distributed press releases has increased at a rapid rate.
One estimate suggests that about 1,750 press releases are distributed online everyday. Assuming that journalists and influencers use press releases to inform their content, the competition for placement has increased. From this perspective, it’s not controversial to suggest that press releases can almost always be improved.
What I want to do in this post is take a look at four ways that PR professionals can improve their press releases.
1. Reconsider your target
In his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott describes how authors Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg successfully marketed a book by sending out digital press releases every day for a few months. While this sort of “outside-of-the-box” thinking isn’t something that every business can (or even should) do, it’s illustrative to understand why they published so many press releases: they were targeting “influencers,” not the traditional media.
Here’s an anecdote that a friend shared a couple of weeks ago. He is a history buff and read in The Wall Street Journal about a book of letters written by a German soldier during WWII. When he went to look for the book, he found that it had a limited printing and that the book cost hundreds of dollars to buy.
Despite its promotion in The Wall Street Journal, it never generated enough buzz to be published for the mass-market. This is one of the main themes of Scott’s book: niche influencers are oftentimes very credible for target audiences as well as easier to access, and media placement isn’t the end-all that many communication professionals hope.
While press releases have traditionally been used to communicate to the press, don’t ignore influencers (you might even try to tailor your releases to them).
2. Tighten your language
There is plenty of content from the point of view of journalists about what they prefer in their press releases. Some of qualities most often mentioned are:
- Straightforward – Straightforward press releases offer the bottom line up front. They are not overly verbose, instead succinctly explaining who, what, when, where and why (or some variation of these).
- Jargon-free – Jargon-free press releases are written with an external voice. They are edited to describe your point of view or messaging to an external targets.
- Subject-matter appropriate – Subject-matter appropriate press releases are sent only to journalists or influencers who create content around a particular subject.
By making your press releases accessible and relevant to journalists and influencers who receive them, you will be advantaged over many of the press releases that your targets receive. Create press releases as a team and have multiple people proofread and edit them if possible.
3. Improve your ancillary resources
Most every PR professional understands that attachments in a press release aren’t advisable. This certainly does not mean that ancillary resources are unimportant. Here are some things that you can do to create interesting, pertinent, unattached ancillary resources for your press releases.
- Use a cloud-based storage app such as Dropbox, Google Drive or even Evernote. You can share links to files using the services in your press release without having to attach anything to an email or from a distribution list. Another alternative to this would be to have a media page on your website and to link to that in your press release.
- Use data visualization tools to create relevant, interesting visuals around your press release. There are tools that nonprogrammers can use to make rich visualizations with very little technical know-how.
- Hire a third-party to create visualizations to company your press release. Depending on the subject, a graphic designer or programmer may be able to create interesting visuals that substantially enhance your press release.
There are some very easy steps that PR professionals can take to visually set their press release apart without violating any sense of propriety around email attachments.
Also of note about ancillary resources: journalists (and even influencers) love exclusivity. Taking the time to offer exclusive visuals around your press release give you an greater likelihood of receiving a placement.
4. Or…don’t do a press release at all
Depending on your target, you may consider not releasing a press release at all. With a resource like the Cision media database, it is very easy to target journalists and influencers whose content is congruent with your communication.
Slow PR requires some forethought, but journalists and influencers who have established relationships with you (and are pertinent to your commutation) and much more amenable to pitches.
Point being that you should never try to accomplish something with a press release that you could accomplish better with a targeted pitch.
Press releases are going anywhere. However, there many more of them to compete with and there is a wider net that you can cast with them in addition to traditional journalists. It is incumbent upon PR professionals to consistently improve the performance of their press releases in order to compete for the ear and the pen of journalists and influencers.
Hopefully this piece gives you some ideas to make your press releases sharper and more effective…whatever that means for you.