Sep 11, 2012

How to Write Press Releases that Work

Yesterday at the Ragan Communications Best Practices Summit, Ruth Sarfaty of Spark PR and I gave a presentation on the subject of press release best practices.  This particular discussion is one I have often, and the answer is ever-evolving.   I say “ever-evolving” because we operate in a fluid environment today.    The algorithms that dictate what we see in social networks and search engines can change dramatically day-to day,  rendering last week’s best practice a worthless tactic today.

“Releases have changed and so have we,” noted my co-presenter Ruth. “While press releases may be intended primarily for journalists, let’s not forget the long tail who tweet and retweet your news!”

Here is the most current iteration of my “best practices” deck, along with the case study Ruth presented of our work together on the study of press releases and social media we did with CrowdFactory.  It’s long and comprehensive.  I’m not going to re-type all the details here (you can easily access the whole thing via Slideshare, just click on the image at the top of this post) but a couple points are worth emphasizing.

Their house, their rules.

It’s important to remember a few things about the search engines and social networks that drive so much visibility for our messages today:

1) Google does not exist to promote your press releases.  Many people forget that the reason Google exists is to return a profit to their shareholders.  They do so by selling ads.  Those ads are effective because of the immense utility most of us derive from using Google to search for stuff.    It’s very important to Google that people find their search engine useful. Ergo, the best way to get visibility in Google? Publish useful and interesting stuff.

2) Social networks are social.  Not commercial. Not advertorial (for the most part.)  People go on to Facebook to hang out, for example.  Twitter, however, is often about the exchange of information, especially niche info and breaking news.   Point is, if your message doesn’t fit the context of why people are using a particular social network, you’ll have difficulty gaining traction there.  You’ve heard the adage “Horses for courses” – well, the same applies for content and social networks. Content that plays well on Facebook won’t necessarily work on LinkedIn.

A lot of time and energy is spent on the optimization of press releases.  Without a doubt, some of the best practices outlined in the deck above will help improve message visibility.  However, at the end of the day, the best way to ensure your message is to provide content that is interesting and useful to your audience.

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:

4 Essential Tips for Writing Effective Press Release Headlines

Rethinking Press Release Tactics to Meet Evolving Audience Preferences

Press Releases Shared More on Facebook, But Twitter Drives 30 Percent More Views

Writing Press Releases that Get Results

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