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From Wire to Web: How ‘Press’ Releases Became Way, Way More

The very term “press” in the phrase “press release” implies a traditional sentiment: that press releases are written for the media.

For that reason, some PR pros argue (and not without merit), for other descriptors such as “media release or “news release.”  Press, they say, refers only to print, but media is more inclusive.

I’d agree that these terms are narrow in scope, but an argument over semantics misses the point – and misses a larger opportunity:  press releases are not just for the media anymore, they are part of a larger content strategy.

This shift says more about the ways in which people find and consume information, than it does about the label we are placing on the medium:  given choices, consumers will choose and they will spend time on niche content – what Wired’s Editor in Chief, Chris Anderson refers to as long tail.  A tool for mass communication has come full circle and is a tool for targeted marketing.

Understanding this trend is why PRWeb  can claim the top spot among news release distribution services: content has gone from the wire to the web to a dynamic web.

Compelling, valuable and trustworthy content is sharable.  It is how a charity organization can create a release and earn coverage in the Huffington Post.  It is also how a small business, with a specialized product can influence shopping cart search engines to refer traffic to – and propel the product into a top 10 category.  Finally, it is how small businesses can tap into news trends to increase their visibility.

It’s not only non-traditional, it may well be unconventional.  Consider the following non-traditional uses press releases as part of a content strategy:

1. Promoting sharable content. At the end of second quarter, we issued this PRWeb release on the most read posts from this blog, and from BloggingPRWeb.  The release wasn’t written for the media at all – rather it was used to promote sharable content and drive traffic.  This simple release took about an hour to complete and yielded 1,000 page reads, 70 interactions and produced a spike in traffic to the blog.

2. The release IS the story. Another example is this release we published at the end of our user conference this year.   I had no intention of pitching this to the media and no expectation that it would be picked up.  Rather it was created in the interest of reaching people interested in a story of trends on marketing and PR.  This release earned 2,100 page reads and 210 interactions.  It also helped drive traffic to other social outposts (which in turn provide shareable content) including Twitter, YouTube and SlideShare.

3. Releases have a long tail in search. A few years ago, I kept seeing one release pop in the analytics as being among the most read – even a year after it had been published. After drilling down in the analytics, I learned the originator was using this release as a landing page for PPC ads, and earned close to 20,000 page views a month.  In excluding those referrals from PPC, organic traffic still produced the majority of views by more than half at 11,000.  The top referral source?  Google.   Press releases have shelf-life in search.

Yes, of course releases still have a traditional role in for PR pros.  Our announcement on a free Facebook App trial is a story I knew would be of interest to AllFacebook. We pitched it, in a very traditional sense.

However, I’d point out the visuals – the video, and other multimedia content elements  – help to tell a compelling story.  It’s an effective use of content in marketing.  Even in a traditional sense, it demonstrates how press releases have evolved and why we need to think about them differently.



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