Beyond PR

Aug 16, 2012

Embedding calls to action for multiple audiences in press releases

Press releases are read by a wide array of people.  When drafting a message, it’s important to think beyond the professional media audience.  Enthusiast bloggers, industry and financial analysts, employees, customers, advocates, shareholders, industry peers and potential business partners are all likely to read your press release.  This means we can reasonably expect to engage numerous audiences with our message.  But are our press releases up to the task?

Traditionally, the outcome we use to gauge press release success has been media pick up.  The call to action embedded within most press releases is the media contact information, supplied so journalists have ready access to the PR staff in the event they need more information for a piece they’re writing.

But what about everyone else?  What about all those other stakeholders who are reading our messages?  Are we serving them well?  Helping support the buying (and other) decisions they’re making?

Capitalizing on fleeting reader attention

It’s safe to assume that readers of press releases assume the same behavior we see of the average web surfer.  They flit from page to page, consuming what interests them, ignoring what doesn’t, and following links that promise a deeper dive into the subject the reader is pursuing.

Sure, any press release worth its salt has ye olde boilerplate gracing the end of the message, in which one can usually find a URL.  But let’s think about this for a minute.  Most of us (correctly) use a version of the inverted pyramid when writing a press release.  The most interesting and important components of the message are toward the top of the press release.

It’s dangerous to assume that all your readers are going to make it to the end of the message – especially if the release is a long one.   A more effective strategy is to add different calls to action throughout the press release that make the most of those fleeting moments when you have the reader’s attention.

Embedding multiple calls to action that appeal to different audiences

People read press releases for different reasons.  In addition to covering a beat, your readers may be researching a purchase, learning more about the company before or accepting a job or evaluating marketplace players to lay the groundwork for a partnership or deal.   The trick for the PR pros behind the press release is to identify which audiences are also likely to be interested, and include links for them to follow that mesh with their specific interests.

Here’s an example.  In talking about this very subject with a client last week, we discussed a current press release about a new type of over-the-counter drug that significantly reduces some of the side effects endemic to this particular type of medication. [For the sake of this example, let’s say this is a new type of decongestant called EasyCold that is given in a standard dose for both children and adults, ending confusion over dosage.]     The press release itself was data-heavy.  It was designed to inform savvy journalists who have some familiarity with subject and have probably been on the healthcare beat for a while.   The original release went out with the standard media contact information.  However, there were other opportunities to engage consumers and other audiences with this message, including:

  • Signal the availability of the data in the headline (and subhead) by using benefit statements to tell the story and attract a wide variety of readers, and adding phrasing that indicates immediately the assets available within the content.

Safe Cold Medicine for Kids and Adults: EasyCold’s Standard Dose Formula Removes Risk of Inaccurate Dosing

Results of study prove standard dose is efficacious for people of all ages.

  • Instead of a jargon-heavy technical lead, describe in clear and simple terms what this new drug means to consumers, and the company.

EasyCold takes the guesswork – and risks – associated with giving children the correct dosage of a cold remedy out of treating sick kids: dosage is the same for both children and adults.   It’s safe cold medicine for kids that also works for the rest of the family, according to a recent study of the efficacy of variable doses …

  • Embed hyperlinks from keywords that will appeal to different audiences, connecting them with the specific information they’re seeking.   You can rely on your readers’ self-interest to guide them.

EasyCold takes the guesswork – and risks – associated with giving children the correct dosage of a cold remedy out of treating sick kids: dosage is the same for both children and adults.   It’s safe cold medicine for kids that also works for the rest of the family, according to a recent study of the efficacy of variable doses conducted by XYZ Pharma …

In this simplistic example, the popular search term “safe cold medicine for kids” could be linked to landing page offering information (and a coupon!) for parents who are struggling with the challenge of finding cold medicine they can feel safe about using.  In the next line, a link to the phrase relating to the study could link to the full study results for a journalist or professional interested in that angle of this story.

These simple links – and a few tweaks to an otherwise technical press release – will broaden the appeal of the story for both industry professionals (media and otherwise) and potential consumers – and the different media and blogs those disparate audiences consume.   With just a little more effort (and no more spend) you can significantly expand the audiences for your press releases – and track the different outcomes they deliver.

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:

Writing press releases that generate better results

6 mistakes that can sink press release visibility

4 Comments on Blog Post Title

John Komarek 11:52 EDT on Aug 16, 2012

Really? Embedding hyperlinks? This article seems a bit remedial in terms of digital communications. We’ve had this ability for years in any email provider or document creator. Who’s out there sending digital communications with hyperlinks not embedded in text?

Sarah Skerik 09:49 EDT on Aug 17, 2012

Who’s out there sending digital communications without links? A lot of communicators! That’s why I continually bang this drum. It’s a simple tactic that costs zero money, and provides a tremendous service to readers.

However, the point of this article was twofold. Yes, I would like to see more folks putting relevant, useful links in press releases. However, I also want them to consider the fact that lots of different people are reading press releases, for different reasons. In the example I gave, I suggest ways to connect with a consumer, by linking from a popular keyword phrase to a landing page, and to an industry analyst, by serving the research data set via another link. We can leverage the power of self-selection, and rely upon our audiences to self-identify, and pursue the content of most use to them …. but we have to anticipate their needs, and serve links and content accordingly.

John Komarek 12:06 EDT on Aug 17, 2012

True. Like many other pursuits, doing something simply for the purpose of doing it is not a good strategy and a waste of time and resources. Actively making the choice of what words to use and providing relevant links is paramount.

A legitimate fear from someone not putting strategic thought in these choices is a release that is “link happy” consisting of every other word being hyperlinked. This would distract your recipient and make you lose your audience/s. So this emphasizes the importance of the number and choice of these hyperlinks.

What are your thoughts about a ball-park rule for number of links within a release? While press releases that are filled with good supporting information and/or a call to action, it’s probably best that a press release doesn’t become a Wikipedia entry in order to direct and influence the recipient.

Great article and good response, Sarah.

Sarah Skerik 12:36 EDT on Aug 21, 2012

Thanks for the kind words, John. For a rule of thumb, I suggest one or two anchor text links per release, maximum. You can still put a URL or two within the text as well. Here are a few more ideas and pointers:

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