Whether you are new into the marketing arena or an experienced marketer, you must have crossed paths with the term press release. A press release is a constant when it comes to marketing, so no surprise there.
However, what is surprising is that no matter where you stand – veteran or fledgling marketer – the term seems to bear a degree of obscurity. In my career, I have met numerous marketers who are not entirely sure what a press release is, what it must do, and how you must go about it.
So, let us set the record straight by answering these questions:
1. What is a press release and what isn’t
2. Why should companies use a press release
3. When should companies use a press release
4. How should companies use a press release
5. What format should a press release have
Ready? Grab your coffee and let us dig into this, shall we?
1. What is a press release and what isn’t
A press release is a means by which something newsworthy is made known to the public in the most objective way possible. The whole purpose of the press release is to get coverage and get noticed by your target audience. By default, this means that a press release will take on the format that will best get it noticed: be it written form, videotaped form, audiotaped form, etc. The form can be literally anything as long as it serves the function of communication.
A press release will promote something, whether an event, an award, a shift in your company, the launch of a new product. What a press release isn’t, however, is a guaranteed marketing tool. You should not consider a press release as your marketing go-to tactic. You create your press release and pass it on to the media, but there is no guarantee that the said media will publish your press release or pass it along to your targeted audience the way you hope it will. Media outlets will not proceed with publication unless they consider your press release to be of interest to their readers.
You must always keep in mind that you are not writing an article that will be published directly. Instead, you are communicating relevant information to the media in hopes that publishers find it important enough to assign their writers to write something about it.
2. Why should companies use a press release?
If a press release is not such a guaranteed method, why bother with it at all? Well, because sometimes there is no other way of getting your information out there in such a quick and widespread manner than a press release. However, a press release will do more than just that. It will do all of the following: help build your image, promote SEO, garner attention, and build a much-needed relationship with the media.
1. A press release helps you build your image.
Nothing helps you build your image more than your story, and nothing helps you control your story better than putting your story out there yourself.
To better understand this, let us revisit the origins of the first press release. It is said that the first press release was created in 1906 by Ivy Lee, a publicist for the Pennsylvania Railroad. Following the devastating and fatal train wreck in Atlantic City, Ivy Lee tried to work pro-actively before the media could publish any information that would be detrimental to the company’s reputation. He, therefore, released a statement directly to journalists inviting them to the scene to promote open communication. Apparently, the move was a big hit among media outlets, and newspapers chose to print the exact press release without changing it.
While this anecdotal story dates a little over a century, the value of a press release has not really changed with the passing of time. As a company, a press release is your opportunity to communicate what is important to you, to share your product’s new launch, to respond to claims others may have put forth regarding your company, to share your story, and to set the record straight.
You can build your image, and you can share your company, your brand, and your brand’s vision as you want your buyers to see you and your product.
2. A press release improves your SEO
If you use your keywords wisely, your rank for these keywords on search engines can skyrocket, especially if several media outlets choose to run your press release. Also, if a journalist uses your press release as part of an article or a blog post, this can lead to backlinks to your website thereby exponentially increasing your traffic.
3. A press release will garner attention to your product.
Media outlets have a much wider spread and reach out to thousands of more potential buyers than your website alone. Therefore, a press release will put your brand at the forefront of consumers’ attention who would have otherwise may never come across your business website.
4. A press release fosters a mutually beneficial relationship with media outlets.
Journalists are in constant search for interesting news to run. So, if you can provide them with something newsworthy, you are building a trusting and mutually beneficial give-and-take relationship. You need the media as much as journalists need your news.
3. When should companies use a press release
Timing is of the essence. In today’s hectic rhythms, there are several factors that will determine whether your press release will get the attention it deserves from media outlets: from the relationships with specific journalists to the press release distribution service you are using to the editorial schedules of that media to the relevance of your statement to that media’s audience, to the clarity of your message and finally, to the timing of your pitch.
So, when is the best time and day to send a press release? You might intuitively consider that the best day is Monday, right? Wrong. On Mondays, journalists have a ton of urgent topics on their agenda, so reviewing and editing your press release seems a bit unlikely.
So why not Friday then? When journalists are off the heat of a starting week and are over their most significant tasks? Research has shown that Friday is as bad as Monday when it comes to sending out press releases. The reason is fairly simplistic and has to do with human nature. Friday marks the end of a long week, and everybody, journalists included, just need to wind down and chill. So, anything not of crucial urgency in their inbox can wait till Monday. But then, Monday comes, and other more urgent topics fill the agenda, and well, it’s a never-ending cycle.
So, when exactly do we send out a press release? The answer is Thursday. Yeap, Thursday it is. And it has tons of data to back it up. Send your press release on Thursday, and your chances of being noticed and published increase exponentially. Why, may you ask? Our assumption is that towards the end of the week, but not Friday, mind you, journalists have crossed off their list the majority of their to-do tasks. This means that they can finally devote the time and energy required towards unopened emails, your press release included.
4. How should companies use a press release
When it comes to the how of a press release, companies should follow these rules.
1. Use a professional content writer.
A press release will be sent out to journalists, and there is a specific set of guidelines that your press release should follow. It must be something newsworthy and something that the media will be willing to run. It is, therefore, best that a professional content writer handles this project or that you at least have the assistance of one.
2. Know your audience
It is essential that you know your audience and who your press release is targeted for. Demographic research resulting in a thorough understanding of your buyer persona will go a long way. So if you are targeting a group of the 45age and over buyers, using modern media that does not resonate with them will not gain any traction. Also, using language that is best appealing to modern Millenials will not affect your target group. So, make sure you know your audience before you craft your newsworthy press release.
3. Use a punchy pitch
Remember that press releases may or may not get published depending on how interesting or relevant the media finds them. To increase your chances of the press release grabbing journalists’ and publishers’ attention, you should use a punchy pitch.
A punchy pitch can do wonders for your branding, and SEO nowadays is as much about branding as it is about getting backlinks. Knowing your brand, understanding your market, and showcasing how competitive your brand is, is not enough in a press release. All that can be well be promoted via other marketing tools. What you should aim at, however, is adding some spice and all that is nice, a touch of humor and some boldness, to stand out from the crowd.
Remember that newsworthy does not equate to boring. So, use a catchy punch line, a memorable headline, and an audacious pitch and make a newsworthy press release attention-worthy.
4. Make sure you edit
This one is a biggy. Remember who your targeted audience is. And I do not mean who your targeted buyers are. I mean your initial targeted audience. Your initial targeted audience is all those journalists and media outlet persons that will first review your press release and decide on its fate. Will it get published? Or not? Will the press release reach its targeted market buyers or not?
If your press release requires a ton of editing work, chances are it will not get published and will never reach your buyers. Always have in mind that your press release will have to be flawless. Journalists are well versed in all grammatical rules, writing guidelines, style codes, etc. You can publish content on your brand’s website with some minor mistakes, and your average reader will never have a clue. But not so much with journalists. Journalists are trained to write impeccable content; it is their job; this is what they do. And finding errors in an unedited press release is one of their biggest pet peeves.
5. Do not repost on your website.
Speaking of your brand’s website, this is another key point to bear in mind. Do not repost your press release on your website. This will take away from your content’s authenticity and result in a competitive page-score ranking with search engines.
If you are too eager to share something about it on your website, write a unique teaser piece and link to the host site that distributed your press release or the media outlets that chose to run it. This increases your brand’s credibility and promotes brand loyalty and consumer trust.
5. What format should a press release have?
A press release should begin with the name of the city it originates from and the date. It should also include a punchy headline, and context should be written in the third person, sharing information from a third-person perspective (which, in a press release case, that would be the media). Your statement should be interesting and concise. A long press release will never get published as people will not only lose interest when reading it but will also lose all the important information amidst the lengthy context. On the other hand, a short yet boring press release will severely diminish your opportunities of the media chasing your story. Your press release should, therefore, not be a mere recitation of facts. That would be too boring. To make your press release more effective, try incorporating quotes, add humor and zest, and avoid dry, rigid words or too professional jargon. Having these tips in mind, what should the format of a press release be?
A press release should follow this format:
- Headline Which Grabs People’s Attention
Your title should absolutely grab people’s attention and clearly explain the purpose of the press release.
Where and when the news is taking place
- Strong Lead with SEO keywords
Your strong lead should explain your newsworthy content in one sentence.
Your press release’s body should be easy to read and follow, and information should be provided in decreasing levels of importance.
- Company Information
A press release should include a few words describing your company to the audience. This is typically called boilerplate description and every company should have one on hand.
- Press Contact
A press release should include the information of a contact person should the reporter needs to follow up with some details or require further clarification.
Setting the record straight.
Contrary to what many believe, the press release is not dead. In fact, it is an essential tool in the hands of companies. Whereas it is not a marketing tool perse, it has a lot to offer.
It can help a company build its image and create its own story. When used skillfully, a press release can also help with SEO. It can also grab the attention of thousands of more people than your website alone. Moreover, a newsworthy press release will help you build a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with the media.
The art of an exceptional, attention-grabbing press release is not dead. It is alive and kicking as long as you use it properly (which should be easy to do after reading this article).
Are you ready to start using press releases for your company and reap the rewards they have to offer?