So when it is so much easier to post a blog to your own site than email an editor only to have yet another story rejected, is there still a role for the humble press release in today’s digital world?
We believe so, yes, and as we celebrate Red Robot’s 8th birthday, we’ve sifted through eight years of press release writing experience to come up with eight reasons why.
- 1 The History of Press Releases
- 2 8 Reasons Press Releases Still Matter
- 3 2. They provide access to new audiences
- 4 3. They carry the weight of authority
- 5 4. They’re adaptable across a range of channels
- 6 5. They generate high-quality backlinks from trusted sources
- 7 6. They encourage shares on social media
- 8 7. They generate content for your own website
- 9 8. They encourage a positive brand image
- 10 Final thoughts
The History of Press Releases
Before websites and blogs made every business a publisher, companies had limited options for communicating directly with the public at large.
They could pay for advertising, but it’s expensive, and not well suited to general communication. The people who see it will assume you are just trying to sell something.
If a business felt it had something really weighty and important to say, it could pay for a report. The difficulty then was how to distribute a printed document. Alternatively, you could sweet talk some friends in the media to run an interview with you or a feature about your business – or you could pay a PR professional to do the sweet talking for you.
By far the most straightforward option was the press release. Cheap to produce and easy to distribute, the purpose of a press release is to get an announcement picked up by an intermediary media service who find it interesting enough to publish and so share with the public at large.
Press Releases Thrived in a Digital World
For the sake of few dozen photocopies and stamps, a successful press release could see a company’s news reach an audience of thousands. If you hit the jackpot of coverage in mainstream national media, you could easily add a couple of zeros to that figure. And things became even easier when email arrived.
Nowadays, of course, you don’t necessarily need the media to reach a sizeable audience. Popular business websites can get thousands of hits a week, and many companies run social media accounts with thousands of followers. A blog or a post on those goes direct to the audience, without having to negotiate the vagaries of editorial policy.
8 Reasons Press Releases Still Matter
With your own website and blog, you get to say whatever you like, however you like, without the restrictions of keeping a press release ‘newsworthy’. Digital channels have given brands more of a voice than ever, facilitating genuine and direct dialogue with customers which has significantly re-shaped the company-client relationship.
1. They’re a recognised format for announcements
For anything that can be considered genuine ‘news’ – announcing a forthcoming company event, a new appointment, a new product or service, financial results, a takeover or a change of premises – a press release follows a tried and tested formula that works.
Media outlets are very careful about protecting their objectivity. So while they will reject anything that is obviously sales-oriented or smacks too much of opinion (unless they ask for it), they will welcome any press release that might be considered in the general interest.
A press release functions as a kind of shorthand. As long as you follow the forms and conventions, you flag up to the editor that you have something newsworthy to share and that it is at the very least deserving of a read.
What is ‘company news’?
Some companies are concerned that ‘news’ is a narrow definition, and it will never allow you to communicate anything in line with your marketing objectives.
There are ways around that.
Commissioning a report, and then issuing a press release about the results, is a great way to build thought leadership into a media release. And this tends to attract excellent coverage.
The golden rule is to have a good story to tell. With a bit of creative thinking, it is surprising what can be spun into a yarn that editors will only be too happy to run with.
2. They provide access to new audiences
However many unique visitors you get to your website, and however many followers you have on social media, these are all people who are already aware of your brand. The majority will probably be existing customers.
Securing coverage in the media creates an opportunity to reach people who have never heard of you before, and a press release is the proven method of achieving this.
Plus, particularly for small businesses, even a modest trade publication is likely to have a larger readership than it has unique web visitors, so the argument for growing your audience is compelling.
Audiences nowadays are very savvy. No matter how well-written, insightful and informative your blog might be, they know that it is written by a businesses whose ultimate aim is to win their custom.
That doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy reading it or find it useful, but they will always process what they read through the filter of that understanding.
Getting a story published in a third-party publication, however, removes that filter.
For all you hear and read about mistrust of the media nowadays, people continue to read and watch newspapers, magazines, broadcast and online channels because they believe in the content.
Anyone reading your story in a third party publication or site is likely to take a less cynical view about your intentions, and digest what you have to say at face value.
4. They’re adaptable across a range of channels
Press releases are not just for sending news announcements to newspapers.
In fact, once you have written a press release, it makes sense to distribute it as far and wide as possible, in as many different ways as possible:
- Send it to press contacts
- Supply it to a media syndication service
- Post it to social media
- Email it out to bloggers
- Forward to your own marketing mailing list.
Ultimately, that is the point of a press release — to get a message out as far and wide as possible. And it is ideally suited to the purpose because it is simple and cheap.
The traditional media has not been stuck in a time warp these past couple of decades. Pretty much every newspaper, magazine and media outlet now has an online version of its publication.
As a result, it has become conventional to include links in press releases, including links back your own website. The chances are, if you get a press release picked up by an online publication, they will include the link back to your site by way of sharing information about who you are.
Not only does this create an opportunity for new traffic, it scores you a big plus in SEO terms, as the likes of Google smile favourably on links from trusted sources. Local links — the kind you get from the local press in your area — can be particularly useful to Google.
A tip on this point: With SEO concerns at the front of their minds, many businesses are tempted to include links to product pages, or whatever pages they want to improve the search rankings of, in their press releases. Don’t. This is not what a press release is for.
If an editor checks a link and suspects a blatant attempt at free advertising, they will just strip the link out.
Unless you have good reason to include another page, just use a link to your home page, which can be justified on the grounds of allowing readers to find out more about you.
People love to share, post and tweet articles they have read and found informative on social media.
If your press release is picked up and published online, you create opportunities for your story to be passed on through the digital grapevine. If you’re really lucky and your story is strong enough, you might even go viral.
There is also nothing stopping you kick-starting this process. If you get media coverage on the back of your press release, you are perfectly entitled to post links to each article on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Everyone else does.
7. They generate content for your own website
As well as sharing on social media, lots of businesses like to shout about media coverage they get on their own blog.
Many have a news section where, as well as posting press releases directly, they create stories about coverage they have received — especially if it happens to be in a significant publication.
This all helps to keep new content on your site ticking over, which is good for SEO. But it also gives you a platform to shout about the fact that you are getting media coverage for your brand, which leads us to…
8. They encourage a positive brand image
Media coverage has long been one of the main objectives of PR for two reasons – reaching new audiences, and because it lends your brand a certain authority.
It may be a slight simplification, but by and large people who are deemed to be ‘in the public eye’ are those who are regularly in the newspapers, on the television and radio, and nowadays increasingly those who run popular YouTube channels or blogs.
The cult of celebrity is a complex thing, but one of its aspects is that people look up to these public personalities. For better or worse, sports stars, TV presenters, actors, musicians and so on are held up as role models and exemplars.
A similar kind of logic applies to companies which are able to get regular media coverage. It isn’t just about being visible – that platform to share views and talk about business ‘in the public eye’ carries a gravitas and respect which PR and marketing people know goes a long way in creating strong brands.
These are all good reasons to still place press releases in your PR and marketing armoury. If you have something to shout about and would like some help with putting a press release together, please get in touch and we’d be happy to answer your questions.