25 Jul The Modern Press Release is Alive, Well…and Different
Is the press release still relevant in 2016?
That’s a question we get more often than you might think. In the age of social media and sound bites, our clients often wonder if writing press releases should even be a thing these days. After all, isn’t it just as easy to write a blog post, or submit an article for consideration?
Sure, those are viable options, but they don’t change one simple fact: the press release is still very much alive! But, like most things in PR, it’s certainly changed over the years. In the 1990’s, digital distribution took what was originally meant as a tool for reporters and allowed it to be consumed by many different audiences, including customers, partners, investors, and, yes, the media.
Soon afterward, major news services like the AP and Bloomberg began supplementing their original content with press release feeds. Today, there are thousands of websites with similar feeds, representing a huge audience for modern press releases.
But what are “modern press releases,” and what makes them effective communications vehicles? In truth, they aren’t that different from the releases that were prevalent in previous decades. Most still feature standardized formats that include contact information, headlines, datelines, quotes, and a boilerplate. But many also feature new bells and whistles that make them easier and faster to digest and help readers uncover more information.
The ideal modern press should not try to do too much. It should be concise – 400 – 500 words in the main body copy, if possible – and simply serve as a conduit for the reader to become interested in learning more. Too many companies try to put the entire kitchen sink into their press releases. While it’s understandable that they would want to err on the side of more information, that’s not the best approach. Reporters, customers, partners, and others, have limited time and attention spans. They want their information quick and easy, with the option to dig deeper if they choose.
There are several ways to provide readers with what they want without sacrificing the need to convey important information. Here are some tips:
Make headlines and subheads forceful and impactful.
This is your chance to hook the reader. Keep the headline and subhead short and to the point – 20 words or less for each, if possible. Use keywords if you can for SEO’s sake, but don’t sacrifice clarity and your message. Avoid jargon — no “marketing speak” here, please. You may even want to write the headline last, after you’ve written the body of the release, to make sure that it accurately reflects and reinforces the main points you’re trying to make.
Make quotes sound real.
Quotes give you an opportunity to further expand on your release’s overall messages. You might even be able to get away with a little more in your quotes than you would in the “just the facts” body section of the release. The key is to make the quotes sound like a person actually said them. Don’t write, “We are proud to announce the findings of our study on cloud adoption.” Write, “The results of today’s study clearly show that customers…”
Also, do not bury the quotes in the body of the release. It’s becoming more commonplace for companies to add a “Supporting Quotes” section to their releases. This makes the quotes stand out and helps reporters pull them directly from the announcement if they choose to do so.
Use links sparingly
Many people view press releases as great SEO tools – and they can be, as long as you tread carefully. In 2013, Google began cracking down on press release links, labeling them “unnatural” and eliminating many releases from search results. This was in response to companies using too many links for the sole purpose of boosting their rankings.
You can – and should – use links in releases, but do so sparingly. Limit them to one to two links at the most in the text. Don’t use press release links as an SEO tool, but as a natural means for people to be able to find further details about the subject matter.
Add an “Additional Information” section
Here, you can add links to product pages, blogs, information on business units, other press releases – anything that might not be appropriate for the main body of the release, but can still add value to the reader. Short bullet points are the order of the day here, and can help readers easily find information that can help flesh out the main messages of the release. And, yes, this can also help with SEO, but in a Google-friendly way, as it’s done for information-sharing purposes.
I haven’t even begun to get into the multimedia aspects of press releases, which have become abundant in recent years. That’s a topic for next month’s blog post. Suffice to say that even with purely the written word, you can create highly effective and compelling press releases that will resonate with today’s audiences.