May 21, 2013
The Press Release as Discovery Tool
Today’s noisy media environment poses challenge for brands: how to get for important messages when there is so much fragmentation of the audience — and competition for their attention. People share and consume incredibly granular information, and a fundamental communications vehicle – the press release – is proving remarkably adaptable and effective, provided communicators refresh their approach to using this PR workhorse in this new environment.
“Press releases have a chance to be something so much more relevant,” notes Steve Farnsworth, chief strategist at Jolt Digital Marketing, and publisher of the widely-read Steveology blog. “But they have to be immediately specific and relevant.”
Who’s reading press releases (and why?)
According to research PR Newswire conducted with Forrester on the visitors to PRNewswire.com, a significant portion of millions of monthly visitors are engaged in researching a product or service, and they find press releases through their use of search engines. People are also accessing press releases increasingly on mobile devices –views to PR Newswire’s mobile site have almost doubled in the last year.
What’s the attraction? Press releases, as on-record statements from the organizations issuing them, are viewed as credible sources of information, and they are read and shared by the public, as well as journalists, analysts and bloggers.
“Most press releases that are produced aren’t read by the media, they’re read by the people,” says Farnsworth. “Your readers are going to be your stakeholders, and you’ll reach more directly that way than through the media.”
The long tail of the press release
Many communicators distribute the press releases in one way or another, whether through an email to industry players, a newsletter to customers or a commercial newswire service. Once distributed, press releases develop an amazing ability to work their way into key industry niches, attaining the credibility of earned media status as they are liked, commented upon and shared.
Additionally, press releases are read long after they’re issued and the PR department has moved on to other things. PR Newswire’s data indicates that most of the views the average press release will accrue over the four months following the distribution of the message – longer than many communicators expect. A good message can actually increase its audience’s attention span.
To capitalize upon the ongoing attention the message generates, the press release also needs to provide direction for interested readers to take.
“The press release needs to be a guide to something bigger or better than itself, such as an infographic or ebook,” commented Eddy Badrina, co-founder and chief strategy officer at BuzzShift, a digital strategy agency. “In fact, all those things you spend time creating probably deserve a press release.”
The recent “Dove Beauty Sketches” campaign included a exemplary press release that – while also loaded with multimedia elements – was also masterfully written to capture attention behind-the-scenes information about the wildly successful social media campaign.