Apr 09, 2014

For Brand Messages, Distribution Matters.

Why do press releases still matter?  I tackled this question in an interview with The Pulse Network at the Inbound Marketing Summit a couple years ago.

A post on PR Daily today questions the value of press release distribution, given the declining number of journalists. [link]

So who really does read press releases these days? 

In short, the audience is still vast, and it includes all of your organization’s key constituents.  Press releases are extremely public means of communications.

  • The tens of thousands of credentialed media on PR Newswire for Journalists tally more than one million press release reads each month.
  • On PR Newswire.com, the press releases we issue garner more millions more reads each month.   Most of those readers find the content via search engines.
  • On Twitter, if you search the term “PRNewswire” you’ll see an avalanche of tweets referencing press releases – often several per minute.

Our clients tell us the press releases they issue have resulted in coverage on Good Morning America (with no pitching!),  increases in landing page traffic of more than 200%,  record app downloads and the generation of qualified leads for sales teams.   The key take-away is this:  all of your brand’s constituents are reading the PR content you distribute.  Failing to calibrate your content accordingly leaves measurable results on the table.

Distribution drives results. 

What drives these results?  Distribution.  Distributing messages beyond the realms of the journalists on your targeted media lists and your brand’s followers on social networks delivers specific and measurable results.   Well-crafted messages are found by new audiences, re-distributed across peer and professional networks and are surfaced in search engine results – often for months after the messages are originally issued.    Distribution is the key to driving ongoing message discovery and introducing your brand to new constituents.

Disappointing results?  Take a hard look at the message.

If your press releases aren’t generating results, before you blame your distribution channels, take a look at the messages.    Here are some tips for making your press releases relevant, useful and effective in today’s connected digital environment:

  1. Is your content truly interesting and useful to your target audiences?  Framing your message in the context of what your audience cares about or will find interesting will enliven your message, and prevent it from reading like a missive from the ivory tower.
  2. Do your headlines convey the messages that will appeal to audiences?  Headlines aren’t for branding.  They shouldn’t be coy.  Headlines need to arrest the eyes of your reader, and inspire them to stop, and read your message.     Keep the headline short – about a hundred characters.  Use a subhead to add the brand mention and additional detail – you needn’t be so mindful of length there.
  3. Do you embed specific and measurable calls to action toward the top of your messages?   Give your readers a path to take by providing a link to a relevant web page that will further engage them with your brand.  Invite them to read an excerpt of a white paper, view a demo or provide robust Q&A that will answer their obvious questions.    In addition to courting media coverage, the press releases you issue are also portals for your brand, and can deliver new audiences right to their doorstep.  Don’t rely on a link to your homepage that’s buried down in the boilerplate.  Make it easy for people to find relevant information, and take the next step.
  4. Is the copy you distribute designed to be easily scanned by readers on all kinds of devices, using bold subheads and bullet points to surface key themes?  Many people are reading press releases on tablets and smartphones.  Organize the body of your press release content into easy to scan chucks, and use numbered or bulleted lists to draw attention to key points.
  5. Does your PR team illustrate press releases with visual content, such as videos, images and infographics?    We really can’t emphasize the value of visuals enough.  Search engines and social networks are increasingly visual, and plain text simply doesn’t carry the same weight. Relying on plain text reduces the effectiveness of messages.

The practice of public relations today requires an increasingly deft touch.  PR Newswire’s own distribution network is designed to deliver customized content to the journalists, bloggers, web sites and media outlets that subscribe to our news feeds.    Ensuring the content they receive from us is relevant to their interests and areas of coverage is the cornerstone of our media relations programs and services.

Likewise, the development of e-mail pitches and press releases takes a similar deft touch.   But don’t leave distribution out of the picture.  If your organization wants to increase inbound web site traffic, acquire new followers, find new audiences and earn some media along the way, broad outbound distribution of your messages via a service like PR Newswire will deliver measurable results.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the recently-published ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

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