Looking at high-performing press releases from September & other trends for PR pros to know
Here at Cision, we find that clients who take a data-driven approach to their press release creation and distribution strategy perform well. In this series, we aim to provide insight into press releases that are making waves on the wire and in the media – and the reason behind it.
Take a look at some of the highest performing press releases from the last month and consider which tactics they’re using that you can apply to – and use to enhance – your own press release strategy.
September releases with the highest page views on prnewswire.com:
Typically, when I do my monthly recaps of the most viewed press releases, I point out the features that - based on years of analyzing press release performance and counseling clients on best practices to increase engagement – likely contributed to high visibility.
Consider the following releases, which were among the highest viewed on the Cision PRNewswire channel.
- Johnnie Walker Announces Fifth Release In Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost And Rare Series With Exclusive NFT Drop
- U.S. News Announces 2022-2023 Best Colleges Rankings
- Dodge Crowns Latest 'Last Call' Special-edition Model: 2023 Dodge Charger King Daytona
- McDonald's USA x Cactus Plant Flea Market
What these press releases get right:
- The first three releases include an action word in the headline (“announces” and “crowns”) – at PRNewswire, we’ve seen over and over again that headlines that include action words typically perform better than headlines without them. (McDonald’s has the rare advantage of name recognition alone enticing readers to learn more.)
- Dodge (see example below), Johnnie Walker and McDonald’s all include compelling multimedia elements that serve to break up the text and provide an engaging visual element that adds further context. (Additionally, we know from the 2022 State of the Media report that journalists specifically want to see press releases with high res imagery they can use to complement their reporting.)
- All four releases are formatted strategically to draw the reader in, using elements like bolded headlines to break up the text, shorter paragraphs, and bulleted copy that highlights key takeaways.
- Executive quotes (more on this below), compelling calls to action (that drive the audience to further engage with the brand), and the inclusion of logos (to enhance brand awareness) also all helped in making these releases popular with consumers, journalists & other key stakeholders.
Nine times out of ten, what makes a press release stand out are the application of the best practices outlined above. This month, however, two other top-engaged stories embodied the exception to that rule: An obituary (of famed former Federal Judge and U.S. Solicitor General, Ken Starr) and a crisis comms release (from Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver), both likely drawing attention thanks to their name recognition and accompanying earned media covering the stories.
Content Highlight: The Executive Quote
I recently read a blog about how the executive quote was dead, and brands should avoid using this type of PR outreach; however, at PR Newswire, we see all evidence to the contrary. Just look at the hundreds of instances of earned media we see every month using quotes directly found in a company press release. Take, for example, this New York Times story which includes a quote directly from the Warner Music Group’s press release.
To make the most impact with executive quotes, use the following two guidelines:
- Keep it concise. Similar to the advice we give for writing a good headline, a quote should never run longer than 70-80 characters. If you just have to, make sure it’s broken up into shorter sentences that an editor can pick and choose from.
- Ensure it’s relevant. You want to give a quote a media outlet’s end-readers will actually care about, find interesting and learn something new from.
Trending topics and keywords for PR pros to know:
- “Inflation” was referenced 779 times in September compared to 1,080 in August; 735 times in July; 626 in June. Slowing in usage post-quarterly earnings, it was still a major theme in stories like this from eBay, where it noted: “Rising inflation and lack of inventory are driving more and more Americans to update and mod their existing vehicles rather than purchase a new one.”
- ESG subject code saw a bump the second month in a row, with 326 releases having this as a main theme (for comparison, there were 264 ESG-related releases in August; 183 in July; and 303 in June.) One of many examples of ESG press releases done well: Kroger Outlines Updated ESG Action Plan.
- Halloween-related releases hit 125 in September, compared to 62 in August, with companies getting a head start on this holiday marketing, e.g., No Tricks, All Treats Here! Hershey is Getting the Halloween Season Started Early & Dole Scares-Up Its Biggest Healthier Halloween Resource Page Ever.
- Web3/metaverse was a theme in 473 releases in September, up from 434 in August – muc like in this copy from Hasbro’s MY LITTLE PONY.
- “Artificial intelligence” was used in 632 press releases in September compared to 540 in August. E.g., IBM Study: Supply Chain Leaders Are Investing in AI and Automation to Navigate Supply Chain Uncertainties and Improve Sustainability