Are Your Press Releases Dead or Just Buried Alive?

How many times in the past 10 years have you heard or read “the press release is dead.” New flash: The press release is alive and well! It’s a real live case of survival of the fittest. PR professionals have managed to evolve the press release with adaptations that keep it a strong tool for communicating company news, expert advice and consumer information.

Panelists at the Utah Technology Council Annual PR Event this morning talked “All Things Press Release,” sharing their press release tips for one of PRs oldest tools. The first press release, written by Ivy Lee in 1906, was designed to give the media immediate and direct access to details of a train wreck so they could have the news before hearing it from anyone else.

The press release continues to be a great way to package information, even if the packaging, contents and delivery method are regularly changing. I’ve had the same experience as one of the panelists, my colleague Clay Blackham, who said that when verbally pitching a journalist, more often than not they still ask if there is a press release that could be sent. If journalists are still asking for press releases, then they must be serving a purpose. Perhaps the danger bigger than death is that press releases literally are being buried alive. More than 2,000 press releases pass by a journalist each day!

While press releases traditionally gave journalists direct access to company news, today the Internet gives that same immediate and direct access to many more audiences, and the release can live in perpetuity. What techniques and features do you need to adopt to modernize your press release strategy?

Today, effective press releases need to appeal to traditional news outlets, new media journalists, and other audiences such as investors, partners and customers. However, don’t forget also to write to the search engine. Catering to this elusive audience of the digital age can make the difference of whether your press release is buried or returned at the top of the search page.

Steve Maccagno, of Fluid, outlines 10 tips for keeping your press releases fresh for the digital age – here they are with some extra comments that include recommendations from all the panelists:

  1. Keep the headline short – The title display in search engines is limited to 70 characters.
  2. Know your keywords – Google AdWords is a free tool to help determine your base of keywords. Hummingbird also makes long-tail keywords possible so searches can be more conversational and specific.
  3. Optimize your first 250 words – The first 250 words of your press release should be the lead that answers who, what, where, when and why – just like the old days, as well as include some relevant keywords.
  4. Create deep, meaningful links – link to additional information that answers the readers’ questions, but avoid linking to pages that are not useful to your reader or linking to the same URL multiple times.
  5. Avoid jargon – why is this so hard? “Clear, concise language” and “corporate jargon” are not synonymous terms. Use the former, eschew the latter. Include more conversational language that answers questions and solves problems.
  6. Avoid symbols – Using symbols such as ™ or ® after your company or product name can be read as an extra letter, impacting search results.
  7. Include multimedia – all media outlets use photos, graphics and video. Gone are the days of black and white copy. The more visual your story is and the easier it is to access those assets, the more appealing it is to journalists. Give them the full package. Consider creating a “multimedia press release” page on your newsroom and link to it from your wire release and twitter pitches.
  8. Use full website URLs – not all sites link to hyperlinks, so use the full web address for your company site.
  9. Include a call to action Don’t miss the opportunity to let the reader know what you want them to do next. As you integrate your marketing and communications you can create more consistent messaging across more touch points more often.
  10. Socialize your press release – since you have optimized the release for more than journalists, share it with more than journalists! In additional to a wire service and posting on your company newsroom, share on social media platforms and bookmarking sites, and respond to the news on your company blog.

How do you see the press release evolving and what are some best practices you’ve developed to continue seeing success?