Last Friday, our Five Tips focused on company literature, a marketing tactic that some marketing experts may categorize as “traditional, static” marketing. We made the point that company literature can now be more effective than ever because of the capability to make the pieces more interactive via Social Media channels, QR codes, and more. The same holds true for press releases. As far back as 2011, Forbes was reporting that press releases were no longer relevant in the social media age. Like other marketing tactics derided for being “outdated,” press releases are dismissed by some of today’s marketers because they are considered one-way communication tactics, too promotional, and not of enough interest to matter in today’s “Person to Person” business world.
This type of perspective is unfortunate. We perpetually recommend to our clients that they increase their PR programs because we believe press releases are still one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s toolbox. That does not mean, however, that press releases have to work the way they always have. Indeed, the possibilities are almost endless when considering how to update press releases for the current business environment. Here are five tips that will illustrate what we mean.
1. You don’t have to promote a product in a press release
Often, when we mention to companies that they should produce more press releases, the response we get is, “I don’t really have any new products coming down the pike.” Traditionally, when press releases were geared specifically to print publications, it made sense to use the opportunity to promote new products or to announce major personnel changes. These days, however, press releases can be published online within hours of sending them out. That means content can be more timely. For example, if a restaurant suffers an e-coli outbreak and your company makes a cleaning agent that helps stave off bacterial infections, your press release can offer commentary on the story with a mention that there are products (like yours) that can help prevent such unfortunate events. We advise some caution in using this sort of approach. A major tragedy, for example, is not good fodder to promote your company. If you are unsure where the line of appropriateness is, refrain from sending anything out.
2. Use a professional image to accompany your content
Whether in print or online, using a professional image to accompany your press release is extremely important. We see countless news releases where the image is poorly lit or where the image is even difficult to identify. People seeing your release should not be asking, “Is that right-side-up?” The better the image the better impression you will give of your company.
3. Use video to make your release more interactive and more personal
Instead of simply quoting key personnel in the release, why not link to a Vlog or a YouTube video where someone from your company actually offers deeper insight into what your release is about? This tactic is beneficial for several reasons. Including a video where views can be tracked can help you determine how many people are engaging with your content. If your press release is distributed via PRWeb or PRNewswire, it’s possible the release could be published on Yahoo.com blogs or other major sites. If this is the case, links from those sites back to a video page on your website can help boost SEO. Moreover, the video can also be developed as a stand-alone piece. In fact, you may already have a video at hand that could be used to make a press release more interactive and informational. Video can also be a great addition to a news release announcing a new hire. What better way is there to introduce someone new at your company than to introduce them via a brief video?
4. Don’t just link to your homepage
No matter what your press release is covering, you should be able to incorporate 2-3 links to pages deeper in your website than the homepage. There are several reasons to do this. First, if someone clicks a link from where your release appears online back to a specific page of your site, especially if one of your site’s keywords is hyperlinked, you can help boost your SEO. Second, by benchmarking traffic to those specific pages before you send out your release, you can get an idea of what kind of impact your news release had. Finally, offering more links indicates that your website offers a wealth of information. This can also decrease the sensation that you are simply trying to promote or sell.
5. Do not take shortcuts in integrating your press release with social media tactics
While we generally believe that integrating marketing tactics is a great idea, there are some cases where approaching this concept sloppily can actually be worse than keeping the tactics entirely separate. One such instance – simply posting news releases to Twitter or Facebook accounts. While news releases can be accented with links to videos or to your social media accounts, we do not advise trying to import your press release into the world of social media without customizing it for each platform. There are many ways to repurpose the content, whether it’s simply linking to the video or making the content more personal for a company Facebook page. Short cuts seldom give a good impression.
Press releases do not have to be one-way, static, overly promotional marking tactics. Be smart about how you choose your topics and how you share your content and you can find that press releases are far from dead. They might even become your marketing MVPs.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyberslayer/338311046/ via Creative Commons