Nov 19, 2015

6 Questions to Ask Before A/B Testing Your Press Release Distribution Strategy

A B Testing Title

“I’m satisfied with the current size of my audience,” said no blogger ever.

Even if your brand’s blog is knocking it out of the park on visibility and audience engagement, there is always room for improvement.

From testing the best time to post on social media to the different calls to action you use, there’s no resting on laurels.

The most successful content marketers are continuously evaluating different methods for promoting content, such as paid and earned media channels.

Research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, for instance, found that 78% of effective content marketers used press release services vs. 55% of less effective content marketers.

However, while earned media is a proven driver for inbound traffic, there are many different methods for using press releases to promote content — some of which may work better than others for your brand’s specific needs.

As PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, learned when crafting a press release strategy for their blog, the most effective way to identify a winning approach for your brand is to A/B test your options.

Although The Catalyst blog was a top content site in the biopharmaceutical research industry, PhRMA was interested in reaching a broader audience beyond followers of their owned and social channels. So they turned to press releases to syndicate and promote The Catalyst’s content.

Taking a data-driven approach to their content release strategy resulted in an increase of views and engagement from the government agencies, trade associations, and other audiences PhRMA wished to reach.

Answer the following questions to begin planning your own press release A/B test.

1. What do you want to achieve with your content promotion?

Are you looking to increase traffic to your blog posts? Are you interested in driving more leads? Are you looking to promote an infographic, research report, or video that was featured in your blog post?

You may have a few different objectives you want to achieve. Identifying and prioritizing the most important objectives will help you determine press release format, distribution and more.

2. What does a successful promotion look like?

Once you have your objective, you have to determine what outcomes will equal success. By looking at your blog analytics, you can set a baseline for the amount of traffic, leads, etc. that are driven by your current promotion strategy. You can then establish a growth rate you hope press releases will achieve.  When testing out new promotion methods, I usually set two rates – one I believe is realistically achievable and a stretch goal.

3. Who do you want to reach?

Are you interested in reaching one specific audience or a combination of a few? Partnering with a reliable press release service will give you access to a range of distributions.

For instance, if you’re only interested in reaching prospective buyers, you may want to consider an online-only distribution. However, if your blog content would be of interest to the media, a newsline that reaches both online audiences and newsrooms may be a better fit. Your press release partner can give you guidance and answer questions about which distribution option will reach your target audiences.

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4. What is the time frame you want to run this test over?

An A/B test isn’t going to give you results overnight.  As with other promotional channels, press releases are most effective when you’re distributing a regular cadence of content. By sending multiple press releases, you can observe which distribution, writing and formatting practices drove the most action.

When it comes to timing, you’ll need to establish the number of weeks/months your test will last, how many press releases you plan to spread out across this time period, and which days and times of days you’ll test distribution on.

5. Which press release formats will you test?

Just as there are different ways to write a press release about more traditional company news, you can take a few different approaches with your content press release.

Keeping in mind your answer to question 1, you should test two or three formats to see which works best at achieving your objectives. The most commonly used formats include:

  • Content teasers: A short summary of the blog post you’re promoting with a link to the post
  • Content round-ups: The promotion of a series of blog posts that are connected together either by a central theme or when they were published; i.e. a Week in Review
  • Content syndication: The republishing of the full text of your blog post with its original call to action or a CTA about visiting/subscribing to your blog

6. How will you measure the results?

When planning, writing and distributing your blog’s press releases, you need to account for the reporting tools you and your press release service have at their disposal.

Being able to measure the outcome of your output is the final piece in your A/B test so make sure you are able to access your press releases’ visibility and engagement data, as well as information on who and how many people are clicking your call to action or links to the content you’re promoting.

Trackable links integrated into your marketing program can enable your measurement of your incoming leads’ quality and their movement through the customer lifecycle.

Although A/B testing can be time and resource intensive, the intel you’ll have at the end of it will be instrumental in guiding your future content promotion strategy.

It’s also a process that can be applied to your brand’s other press releases. From product unveilings to event announcements, exploring and testing different approaches can show you which ones are most effective at connecting with your audience.

Download our content syndication case study PhRMA Increases Blog Readership & Reaches Broader Audiences to see an example of press release A/B testing in action.

The steps PhRMA took — and the results — will help you define a press release strategy for your own brand’s content.

Amanda Hicken is PR Newswire’s senior manager of strategic content and managing editor of Beyond PR. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken for tweets about the media, marketing, Cleveland, and comic books.

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