While many folks are ordering tombstones for press releases, the truth is (for now anyways), we still need to leverage them (in an evolved form). Yes, the traditional press release can be taken out to the cow pasture, but an evolving social media (or Web-friendly) release – heavy in hyperlinks, social tags and media – can still be a worthwhile PR tool.
Many clients (brands) still look at press releases as marketing speak; heavy in product and service jargon that journalists covering the beat have a hard time understanding – let alone the typical consumer. As communications continues to shift towards direct-to-consumer interaction, press releases also need to adapt.
Of course, savvy clients are big fans of Google News so they should understand that the modern, digital press release is read by hundreds to thousands of consumers on the Web (including potential sale’s leads) in its original form (both on Google News and other news aggregator sites). So what is the best way to maximize the return on investment on digital releases today? Here’s a few basic tips.
- Free is Good: Now more than ever, those of us within this industry need to focus on return on investment. Sometimes there just isn’t the prospective return there to pay for the distribution of a press release on a paid distribution wire. While it is still necessary in most cases to use pay-for wire services (i.e. BusinessWire and MarketWire) for major corporate (investor / financial) and product announcements, a large percentage of clicks on press releases come through Google. Social media distribution services like PitchEngine, which are free in their most basic form, also get picked-up on Google. While we still advise that clients use this tool as a supplement to pay-for wire services for major announcements, these free services can be used as alternatives to paid services for lesser announcements. In addition, although BusinessWire has added new tagging features within the last couple weeks, which includes Facebook and Twitter, PitchEngine and other social services tend to allow for better social sharing capability (or Re-tweet-ability) than their paid-for counterparts. Once the release is up, it’s important to make sure the release is shared across communities (i.e.: Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc).
- Shorter Headlines: Given that we live in a 140-character world with the advent of Twitter, one would think that we would begin to shorten other aspects of our communications toolbox. It hasn’t really happened to date. Brands continue to spend too much money, with too many words, with the aforementioned pay services and headlines are continually wasted on Google News. Google news only supports 63 characters with its headlines, yet companies continue to make their headlines longer than most tweets. It’s important that companies not only shorten their headlines, but also include search keywords within the first 63 characters.
- Hyperlinks or Anchor Text Up-front: In addition to allowing for easy click-throughs to corporate Websites or micro-sites, the use of hyperlinks (or anchor text) also weighs releases as more relevant in the eyes of Google’s search engine. Google’s search patents, which have been disclosed over the years, illustrate how and why Google’s engine ranks anchor text and hyperlinks so highly. Using anchor text with keywords (as part of an SEO strategy) in the opening of your release builds relevancy, leading to more link views and inevitably more clicks on the release, and your Website.
- Using Hyperlinks, in Addition to Full Domain Names: Although Google continues to score anchor text (i.e. RaceTalk) higher than full domain names ( i.e. http://www.racetalkblog.com), consumers still click on full domain names. Press releases distributed through paid services are often likely to see Website click-throughs higher on full domain links than the hyper-linked alternative. It’s important that you include both within your release (especially for the corporate Website).
- Market your Return: Once you’ve got the right service and the right format for your release, and the results that come with it, make sure to market the return on the release up the ladder. Free services like PitchEngine offer you click results on your release and paid services like BusinessWire offer you much more. BusinessWire offers paying customers full click-through results that tabulate which links viewers clicked on within the release, which site referred them and where (wire, Google News, etc) they viewed the release. It’s imperative that these results (especially the amount of traffic driven to a Website or product page) are shared with the client or up the ladder (for PR folks working in-house).