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5 tips for getting your story noticed

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This is a guest post from Jason Kintzler, Founder of PitchEngine. This post was originally published on New Media Cowboy.

I’ve waited almost two years to pull the trigger on a post about the death of the traditional press release. Why? Because for the longest time, I thought it was just hype. Now that I’ve made the rounds speaking at PR, marketing and journalism events and conferences I am convinced – it’s time to face the music.

No one likes to write them.
No one likes to receive them.
No one likes to read them.

In 1906, the press release was born out of necessity. It was actually very high-tech back in the day, serving as a “plug-and-play” for journalists who wished to typeset the text right into their newspaper article. With the internet came the ability to “simultaneously distribute” press information, which led to where we are today – an antiquated way of communicating news and announcements. But there is hope for the future, as long as we ditch the traditional methods and get savvy. Here’s how:


1.  Stop writing for your CEO and start writing for your audience.

Anytime someone criticizes the “death of the traditional press release” idea, they always point to good writing being the solution. But if you’re writing what the corporate mandate dictates, you’re likely missing the point.

Beth Mansfield, Director of Public Relations at CKE Restaurants is masterful at writing for the Carls Jr.’s key demographic, an 18 to 34-year-old male. Headlines like, “Badda Bing, Badda Boom: Carl’s Jr. Goes Italian With New Parmesan Chicken Sandwich” or “Bourbon: It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore” are written for who they’re trying to reach, their consumer.

“The days of a dry, boring product press release are gone. We keep Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s guests coming back by having innovative products. We have to be innovative and engaging in our press releases. By speaking to our target audience of young, hungry guys in our press release, we encourage dialogue and see far broader pick up of our product news,” said Mansfield.

If the goal is SEO, then don’t bother trying to write to your audience. If the goal is to be engaging and to get readers to share and talk about your content, then write what you would want to read. What the SEO gurus don’t tell you is that Facebook has already surpassed Google and now drives more traffic to key sites than Google. This means that soon, a well shared post will be just as important as an “SEO optimized” robotic headline and subhead that is heavy on the keyword links.

Besides, the logic is simple: You can’t make a press release social. Traditional, AP-style press releases just aren’t conversational. You can’t cram a bunch of text and a word doc into twitter and expect it to play. Companies are now driving sales through social interaction with consumers. That’s a metric we can leverage.

2.  Include shareable content
If your producing a traditional press release and then adding an image or a video, make sure those assets are shareable. What is the purpose of including assets if a journalist or blogger can’t use them? Many wire services offer multimedia up-sell options, but few of them actually allow you to embed video from YouTube or photos from Flickr. This is part of the social media integration I always talk about. And one of the big differences between traditional and social releases.

Tom Foremski proclaimed in a recent post, “Why are people unable to understand the value of putting links into PR copy? Do they know how to create a link and embed it in their copy?”

3.  Throw out the traditional metrics
So, you’re measuring the success of your PR efforts by calculating the publications ad value equivalent? Hmm. Makes sense, since the traditional advertising model is working so well…Yikes.

There are a million…okay, a hundred social media monitoring sites out there. Start tracking how your release travels and performs across the social web. Stop relying on services that autopost your content on “downstream websites” as proof of performance.

4.  Stop using Word
Seems simple, but it’s a buzz kill from the get-go.

“Sweet, I’ve completed my document and now I have a file attachment to send around. People love downloading files, right?”

Sound silly? Is it you? At the risk of sounding “salesy,” get on PitchEngine and create a shareable, social release from the start. Hundreds of PR firms are already making the complete switch away from Microsoft Office to our cloud-based platform. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t create a post in Word and then copy and paste it into Facebook would you? (If you answered, “Yes,” please disregard #4 entirely).

5. Be creative
As PR professionals, brand managers or entrepreneurs, we should be passionate about what we’re pitching. If we’re not, we should be honest. Either way, if there is an “easy button” in the PR process, don’t push it. Be creative and you will be rewarded.

Andrew Fowler uses humor to break the ice with journalist friends and potential PR contacts.

“Think of the press release as the Ring in Lord of the Rings. Remember what happened to Gollum? He got super ugly and went nuts. Poor Frodo suffered too but look how happy he (and everyone) was when he finally destroyed the Ring in the depths of Mt. Doom. Rid yourself of the Ring (press release) and it will open up all kinds of possibilities to do interesting, creative and humorous things with your PR content,” explains Fowler.

Think about the pitch as the new release. Make it tasty, but concise. Too much of a good thing is too much. We’ve already discovered that social media releases on PitchEngine are more engaging than traditional releases shared on the wires (Alexa.com)

If you give any of these methods a try, you’re going to begin to see the light. If you’re worth your salt as a PR pro, you have built relationships with journalists, bloggers and consumers in one form or another. Why subject them to a half-hearted effort by pushing them a press release? Send them something they can sink their teeth into and you’ll see your success multiply.

6. What would you add?
How else can we kill the traditional release, once and for all? Leave your suggestions for number 6 below.

And follow me: @jasonkintzler for continuing discussion.

Please join PitchEngine’sJason Kintzler and Cision Blog’s Laurie Mahoney for tomorrow’s webinar “Social Publish: Going Beyond the Press Release” at 1pm CST. Register here.

 

About Guest Contributor

Cision invites PR and marketing professionals to share their best practices and advice with the Cision Blog audience. To share your story, contact blog.us@cision.com

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