Forget SEO Tactics. Put Your Audience First

The following article originally ran in my regular column at

I recently read a piece by Sarah Skerik, author of Unlocking Social Media for PR and vice president of content marketing for PR Newswire. I love what Sarah has to say and it mirrors my opinion exactly.
Do you want to succeed as a communicator at any level? Then first and foremost, your agenda should be to attract viewers and readers who are genuinely interested in your message and topic. How do you do that? The solution is simple. Deliver content that is genuinely interesting.
It seems so fundamental. Among all the rules of press release writing, for example—keyword usage and placement, hyperlinks, social sharing, hashtagging—so many communicators forget the fundamental purpose of the press release is to serve your audience with news and information they want and can actually use.
Sarah says it brilliantly: “Instead of picking apart the structural mechanics of the press release, I believe it’s important to spend a little time thinking about the overall message and the focus. We have to do a better job of presenting content in our readers’ context, not within the brand’s messaging framework.” [italics are mine]
What a novel idea. Put your audience first.
If you fail to grab and hold your reader’s attention and compel and inspire the reader to some sort of a positive action, the release you post won’t be seen. Period. It will, however, be found in web searches on your company’s name or topic, as eternal evidence of your poor ability to communicate well.
What does Sarah hate seeing in press releases? “Jumbled messaging, with angles and themes piled haphazardly on top of one another. The release may start off talking about a partnership or a new product, for example, but then it veers off into a discussion of business strategy, a new hire or the upcoming product pipeline.  It starts to read like a late-night infomercial.  But wait! There’s more!”
I call them “kitchen sink” releases.
Content with too many topics jammed in is not only worthless to readers, but presents problems for the search engines as well. How do you index or categorize a piece of content when the themes it covers wander all over the bush?
Says Sarah: “That thousand word press release containing three months’ worth of announcements is probably doing the brand more harm than good.”
Think of it like the “marshmallow game” you played as a kid. One by one you stuff marshmallows into your mouth to see how many you can get inside and still manage to utter an intelligible message. Are you getting the picture?
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