Aug 16, 2012

Embedding calls to action for multiple audiences in press releases

Press releases are read by a wide array of people.  When drafting a message, it’s important to think beyond the professional media audience.  Enthusiast bloggers, industry and financial analysts, employees, customers, advocates, shareholders, industry peers and potential business partners are all likely to read your press release.  This means we can reasonably expect to engage numerous audiences with our message.  But are our press releases up to the task?

Traditionally, the outcome we use to gauge press release success has been media pick up.  The call to action embedded within most press releases is the media contact information, supplied so journalists have ready access to the PR staff in the event they need more information for a piece they’re writing.

But what about everyone else?  What about all those other stakeholders who are reading our messages?  Are we serving them well?  Helping support the buying (and other) decisions they’re making?

Capitalizing on fleeting reader attention

It’s safe to assume that readers of press releases assume the same behavior we see of the average web surfer.  They flit from page to page, consuming what interests them, ignoring what doesn’t, and following links that promise a deeper dive into the subject the reader is pursuing.

Sure, any press release worth its salt has ye olde boilerplate gracing the end of the message, in which one can usually find a URL.  But let’s think about this for a minute.  Most of us (correctly) use a version of the inverted pyramid when writing a press release.  The most interesting and important components of the message are toward the top of the press release.

It’s dangerous to assume that all your readers are going to make it to the end of the message – especially if the release is a long one.   A more effective strategy is to add different calls to action throughout the press release that make the most of those fleeting moments when you have the reader’s attention.

Embedding multiple calls to action that appeal to different audiences

People read press releases for different reasons.  In addition to covering a beat, your readers may be researching a purchase, learning more about the company before or accepting a job or evaluating marketplace players to lay the groundwork for a partnership or deal.   The trick for the PR pros behind the press release is to identify which audiences are also likely to be interested, and include links for them to follow that mesh with their specific interests.

Here’s an example.  In talking about this very subject with a client last week, we discussed a current press release about a new type of over-the-counter drug that significantly reduces some of the side effects endemic to this particular type of medication. [For the sake of this example, let’s say this is a new type of decongestant called EasyCold that is given in a standard dose for both children and adults, ending confusion over dosage.]     The press release itself was data-heavy.  It was designed to inform savvy journalists who have some familiarity with subject and have probably been on the healthcare beat for a while.   The original release went out with the standard media contact information.  However, there were other opportunities to engage consumers and other audiences with this message, including:

  • Signal the availability of the data in the headline (and subhead) by using benefit statements to tell the story and attract a wide variety of readers, and adding phrasing that indicates immediately the assets available within the content.

Safe Cold Medicine for Kids and Adults: EasyCold’s Standard Dose Formula Removes Risk of Inaccurate Dosing

Results of study prove standard dose is efficacious for people of all ages.

  • Instead of a jargon-heavy technical lead, describe in clear and simple terms what this new drug means to consumers, and the company.

EasyCold takes the guesswork – and risks – associated with giving children the correct dosage of a cold remedy out of treating sick kids: dosage is the same for both children and adults.   It’s safe cold medicine for kids that also works for the rest of the family, according to a recent study of the efficacy of variable doses …

  • Embed hyperlinks from keywords that will appeal to different audiences, connecting them with the specific information they’re seeking.   You can rely on your readers’ self-interest to guide them.

EasyCold takes the guesswork – and risks – associated with giving children the correct dosage of a cold remedy out of treating sick kids: dosage is the same for both children and adults.   It’s safe cold medicine for kids that also works for the rest of the family, according to a recent study of the efficacy of variable doses conducted by XYZ Pharma …

In this simplistic example, the popular search term “safe cold medicine for kids” could be linked to landing page offering information (and a coupon!) for parents who are struggling with the challenge of finding cold medicine they can feel safe about using.  In the next line, a link to the phrase relating to the study could link to the full study results for a journalist or professional interested in that angle of this story.

These simple links – and a few tweaks to an otherwise technical press release – will broaden the appeal of the story for both industry professionals (media and otherwise) and potential consumers – and the different media and blogs those disparate audiences consume.   With just a little more effort (and no more spend) you can significantly expand the audiences for your press releases – and track the different outcomes they deliver.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

Related reading:

Writing press releases that generate better results

6 mistakes that can sink press release visibility

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