Aug 07, 2012

Writing Press Releases that Generate Results

Steelcase garners improved press release results by adding multimedia to messages.

In today’s real-time, connected world in which our audiences expect to find anything they want, when they want it, it’s imperative that communicators wring every ounce of effectiveness out of all the content they publish, and to continually assess the results each message generates.   On the heels of last week’s post about rethinking (and expanding) the audiences for press releases,  today we’re putting the press releases under the microscope. and we’re focusing on some of the most common questions we hear.

Why don’t my press releases get any pick up?

If pick up is a problem, take a hard, candid look at your press releases.  Do they have a lot of jargon? Multiple message themes?   Many messages make promotion of the brand or organization their sole focus.  They’re written for the execs, not the audience.  To say it simply, they read like a hard sell.  A very boring hard sell.

So if your press releases are consistently panned, consider making these changes.

  • Find more interesting ways to frame your news.  Instead of an announcement about a technical upgrade featuring the updated specs , for example, talk instead about the customer problems the technology solves.
  • Find ways to “give” to your audience.  The direct access we have to our audiences has changed the definition of “news” as related to what sort of information we put into press releases.  Feature stories offering readers tips and best practices are extremely popular, and they generate positive attention and goodwill for the organization issuing the content.  Issue interesting information on an ongoing basis, and you’ll cultivate a loyal and engaged following of customers, prospects and industry influencers who pay attention to your messages.
  • Use tried and true practices that gain attention and make your content “sticky.” 
    • Journalists love data, facts and figures. Audiences appreciate data points, as well, and view data-based content as credible. If your content includes reference to some statistics or study results, make that your primary theme and highlight the numbers in the headline.   Studies have shown headlines with numerals generate more reads.  (And no, saying you have a GR8 new product does not count.)
    • Another tried-and true way to get more press release views and results is to include a photo – or, even better, video.   Images and video capture the reader’s eye and get preferential treatment in many search engine and social algorithms.  For these reasons, it’s not surprising that press releases with multimedia get better results.    One PR Newswire client, Steelcase, has committed to using multimedia content, and they’ve seen the results.

“At Steelcase we’ve significantly increased our use of multi-media assets, especially our use of video,” Katie Hasse, senior public relations specialist, told us in describing her team’s revamped approach to press releases.  “ It’s helped us get more pick up on our releases and also win attention from top-tier journalists on our thought leadership and industry knowledge.”  (Example:  Steelcase Projection)

  • Focus your message.  Unfocused content that tries to pack two or three angles into one message is confusing to both readers and search engines.  Readers aren’t inspired to take action, and search engines have difficulty categorizing the content, and probably won’t rank it highly.  Specificity and relevance are your best friends in today’s information and attention marketplaces.

As we demand more results from our press releases, it’s crucial that our messages keep step with audience interests and the algorithms that surface content in search engines and social networks.   Those algorithms are now using social signals, such as the number of times a piece of content was tweeted, how authoritative those tweeting the content are, and whether or not those tweets spiked any downstream response from readers.  To generate those kinds of signals, content must be interesting to the reader – something important to keep in mind when drafting your next press release.

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

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