Press releases are a staple of the marketing industry. It’s hard to imagine a company announcing news or product launches without distributing at least one press release, if not several. But in the age of cluttered inboxes and instant gratification social platforms, do they still work?
According to Hubspot researcher Dan Zarella, the short answer is yes. Online press release are viewed an average of 275 times during the week and media views account for at least another 70 views. The more eyeballs checking out your announcement, the more likely you are to gain traction with journalists and conversions with customers.
It’s not enough, though, to simply post a few words about your company’s latest news and take the rest of the week off. Effective press releases are part art, part science.
Related: How to Be Your Own PR Machine
Here are 10 things you must do for maximum press release power.
1. Tease and tell.
Your press release should contain enough information to let customers and journalists know why your news is important, but also include a hook that encourages further questions. Don’t be coy when explaining your announcement, though. If you tease too much without getting into details, you’ll lose people who don’t want to have to dig around to find out what’s going on.
2. Use visuals.
Zarella says press releases that contain images and videos increase engagement by 18% and 55%, respectively. Now’s definitely the time to put together an informative infographic or round up a collection of short videos that illustrate the concepts behind your announcement. Visuals are a perfect vehicle for delivering concise information in easily consumable bites.
3. Polish your SEO skills.
To increase the chance of getting noticed on crowded press release websites and in a Google search, make sure to optimize the SEO in your press release. Don’t go overboard, though. “Outside of keywords in your headline, press releases should be no more about search engine optimization than blogging is – you write for people first, and let the search engine chips fall where they may,” says Copyblogger’s Brian Clark.
4. Tailor language to the audience.
It’s tempting to trot out your best marketing speak when crafting a press release but it usually falls flat with readers. Save words like synergy, disrupt, and leader for another time and rely on straightforward phrases that educate reporters and customers instead. “Our widget increases worker productivity by 73 percent” is much more effective than, “As a leader in the industry, our disruptive new widget benefits synergy between customers and employees.”
5. What’s in it for the reader?
Use press releases to build relationships with journalists and customers alike. Don’t just email copies to all your distribution lists. Take the time to include a few sentences calling attention to what your announcement means for each unique type of reader. Customers want to know how your news directly impacts them and reporters want to know how it fits into the niche they cover. Tell them.
Related: 3 Steps to Getting Good Press
6. Be ready to answer questions.
Done right, your press release will generate calls and leads from people who want to know more. Be sure your contact information is clearly displayed on all your releases and your staff is available to answer any questions that come your way. Nothing says “I don’t care” more than silence from your end of the customer service or media relations channels.
7. Use free and paid distribution services.
Press release distribution can be expensive but it’s a critical cost of doing business. Paid distribution channels often have tight relationships with sites like Google News and USA Today, so it’s worth investing in them to reach a wider audience. Free sites are great for the budget-conscious but typically post to lower-quality websites than you may want. To maximize effectiveness, use a combination of free and paid services to get your message out.
8. Tell a story.
Case studies and white papers are popular because they tell a great story that readers can interpret and adapt to their own situations. Think of press releases as a short story that explains your news in a captivating way. Fast Company’s Wendy Marx says the next time you write a release, ask yourself,”What makes your company tick? How do you delight your customers? What sets you apart from the pack?”
9. Always post releases on your company website.
Don’t rely on the changing winds of the internet to keep your press releases searchable. Always post a copy on a dedicated section of your company website. The reason is twofold: customers reading at the source can quickly click over to your product or contact pages, and reporters won’t have to go on a scavenger hunt to track down your organization’s latest news.
10. Be a good Internet citizen.
Link to a few outside sources within the body of your press release to let others share a sliver of your spotlight. Google loves that kind of reciprocity and readers will know you’re plugged in to thought leaders related to your industry. “Press releases, as long as you write them in-house, also give you the key opportunity to associate your company name with relevant keywords and subjects,” says Jayson DeMers. “This increases the likelihood that search queries will result in your business showing up due to co-occurrence and co-citation, as well as the recent semantic search updates to Google’s algorithms.”
Related: 10 Ways for Startups to Score Media Coverage