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The Press Release Reloaded: Three Reasons Why

Here you can read about the 3 pillars of the social media press release, courtesy of our guest blogger Mariela Dimitrova, the marketing wire of the Amsterdam-based software and communications company Rock & Code. She is here to share some of her thoughts and expertise. Thanks Mariela!

Back in the day, press releases used to be the main currency of public relations.

They came in a certain shape, they all answered a certain set of questions, and they did not deviate from the accepted PR standards. At that time, there were very few channels of distribution and PR professionals were sending their fine-tuned pitches to journalists hoping to get them published. It was considered a big achievement to get that mention in a national newspaper.

Moreover, such accomplishments were commemorated for CEOs, boards of directors, and shareholders in a complex ritual of collecting newspaper clippings and making PR scrapbooks. At that time, there were no tangible ways of tracking results, measuring brand awareness or exposure. Everything happened in the blurry context of the hypothetical and there were only rough estimates.

Then, in 2006, something happened.

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Journalist Tom Foremski wrote his famous article “Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!” and virtually sent the traditional press release on the road to destruction. Along came the social media explosion and things changed beyond recognition.

Indeed, this was the time when the death knells chimed loud and clear and the news release died - to rise in a different shape. A better press release format rose from the ashes and the world got the social media press release.

This phoenix press release differs significantly from its predecessor in three main aspects:

  • focus,
  • methods of distribution,
  • reach.

Hence, it is mandatory to examine those three facets in a greater detail and draw certain parallels with the hope that businesses would adapt to the PR changes rapidly.

1. Change of focus

Whereas the traditional press release was mainly written for journalists and it was the professional writers who gave it a certain shape and angle, the social media press releases should be written for just everybody.

Indeed, traditional journalists have lost some of their influence, and a new powerful movement of bloggers and tech-savvy citizens has taken control of the online media fronts. What is more, people are more media aware and they often pick and choose the news they want to read. Often, they find the industry bits they are thrilled to read on their own.

So, pay attention PR professionals!

Before you sit down and write your press release, think about your potential pool of readers. You no longer have to appeal to journalists only. Now you have new variables in your PR equation, so think about it and figure out a way to write something that appeals to multiple media actors.

2. Methods of Distribution

In the good old days, traditional journalists and their editors were perceived to be the sole gatekeepers to media exposure. The rise of social media radically changed the PR landscape and empowered the average internet user.

You need to realize that while you are sending pitches by mail to journalists and editors, people are searching the web and social networks for information.

Hence, you might be barking at the wrong tree.

Whereas getting your press release published in newspapers and big online journals still counts a lot, do not underestimate the power of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg, ReddIt, Delicious, etc. Those are excellent channels of distribution and all you have to do is to create an account and learn the best practices.

In fact, the number of people who check their Twitter and Facebook accounts in the morning is significantly larger than the number of people who read the newspapers. Think about it.

3. Reach

Let’s face the basic facts. In Q1 2014, Facebook has over 800 million active users, Twitter over 250 million. The blogosphere, on the other hand, has its billions of bloggers ready and willing to digest news and write their entries.

Now consider the number of people that an old-fashioned press release can reach on a daily basis. Bear in mind that online media allow you to share information and interact with others.

Takeaway

The moral of this story is that if harnessed properly, social media can provide for a greater reach of your press release. Hence, make sure that your press release is shareable online and go conquer the new media Wild West!

In conclusion, we can simply go back to our initial premise and shout it out loud: the traditional press release is dead, long live the social media press release!

Do you want to become our next guest blogger? If you have a relevant topic you would love to blog about, please contact us.

How to cover online Public Relations for your startup

Startup founders are busy people: building a business, disrupting a market and changing the world forever are time-consuming tasks!

How much do startuppers care about public relations then?

Even if most startups start working on marketing the day they start building their product - which is good - the PR side of marketing is often postponed. The reasons are quite obvious: these tasks are time-consuming (remember PR is a marathon, not a sprint) and ROI is often debatable.

Still, you’re missing opportunities here.

Whether you decide to hire a PR agency or not, you need to cover PR. PR drives behavior with customers, investors, employees and competition. What is said about you publicly matters. In Mark Suster’s words:

“If you don’t define the story about you, somebody else will.” 

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That’s why it’s important to build an online presence for your brand that features your communication assets and is available for journalists, bloggers and editors. In one word, your pressroom.

Here are 8 things to keep in mind when building your online presence.

1. No second chance for a first impression

What your aunt used to say is true: you never get a second chance to make a great first impression. The first glance, the first few seconds, can tell a lot about you. This is even more true on the Internet: the readers’ attention span is slowly decreasing year after year. You’d better get it right the first time then.

Work on your pressroom, make it so easy to understand that even grandma can get what you do.

2. Have a clear proposition

The more time you spend preparing, the more time you’ll save afterwards. Before sending out any pitches, take time to craft your message. Talk like a human, express your point of view, give real answers. Find a clear way to explain your vision and your proposition.

Develop the story of your brand. Your story informs the rest of your PR efforts, from pitches to press releases and everything else.

3. Time is (uh, can be) on your side

Prepare everything in advance and time your news to perfection. You can decide to set an embargo for your launch, or you can give an exclusive. Be aware these methods may be risky when not everyone is on the same page.

"When you do decide you want to give a specific media channel the news before everyone else make sure they are interested and agree on a date they will write about your story so you will know when you can send the rest of your PR contacts the news". Marc Köhlbrugge 

4. Don’t make them think!

People are lazy and journalists are people, too. You’d be surprised how many results you can achieve if you make it easy for your contacts to help you. Do you want them to tweet about your press release? Let them do so from your email. Do you want them to provide an introduction? Ask nicely. Do you want them to cover your startup in their blog? Read how to do it here

Another thing you can do to make life easier for journalists: provide all the necessary information about your business in one place. Add pictures, company information, spokespeople’s contacts to your pressroom.

Also, don’t forget to integrate you pressroom into your website

5. Show social proof and press coverage

Wait, why should someone believe what you claim in your pressroom? You know, people may be suspicious.

To prevent this kind of inconvenience, you can add social proof to your pressroom. All the previous articles about you can be added as clippings to your pressroom. Another interesting strategy is to ask your clients for a quote - you don’t need celebrities, just experts or people who share your users’ pain. Be as precise as possible when you ask for quotes. Read more here.

6. Be responsive

This means 2 different things. First off, you should answer promptly whenever someone has additional requests about your business.

Moreover, your pressroom should have a responsive design in order to look good on any screen. More than half of the emails are opened on the go: what if your contacts click on your email and your pressroom is not optimized for mobile? If so, it’s going to look bad: make sure your pressroom features a responsive design.

7. Fake it till you make it

When you establish an online presence and take control of your communications, there’s an additional benefit. You make the rules, so you can cheat a little bit.

I heard this for the first time from the serial entrepreneur Janneke Niessen: “Fake it till you make it”

We’re not talking about lying here - there are many ways to suggest you are already at a further stage even if it’s not true yet. Another way to put it? Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.

So you can set the frame and the vocabulary for your business: you write the words that people will use to describe your work. People are lazy, you know that right? If you provide text and context in meaningful way, some people may use your own words to talk about you.

8. With a little help from your friends

It’s not always the case to reinvent the wheel. Whenever you find something another business is doing well, you can focus on adapting their strategy to your own brand. In T.S. Eliot’s words:

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different”.

You never know where the next business lead comes from. That’s why a consistent pressroom can show professionalism on your behalf when you can’t do it in person.

Pro tip: let your contacts share your new press release with one click

You wrote a nice press release about the huge milestone your startup just reached. One of your goals is to spread the news on Social Media as much as possible. In your list of contacts, you want to ask your colleagues, some friends and your mother to share the news. Everything’s great so far! 

Here’s a problem, though: people are lazy.

How can you make it easy for your contacts to share the news?

You could let them tweet directly from your email, for instance.

Here’s how:

1. Get the right link you want people to share

  • Go to your public press release.
  • Right click on the Twitter icon on the top right.
  • Click on “Copy Link Address”.

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2. Use the link in your email with the right CTA

  • Write your call to action in the email - E.g. “Click to share the news on Twitter with one click”.
  • Select the call to action, click on the “Link” icon and paste the url you copied.
  • Check everything and send your email!

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Hey did you know you can do the same trick with email sharing? This is a nice hack we learnt from Noah Kagan - we call it Samuel L. Hackson.

Like this post? Share it on Twitter with one click! Let us know your thoughts in the comments or @prdotco!

The modern press release: What’s the use?

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Why would you spend time on a press release when you can simply tweet out your news? People’s attention spans have shortened anyway, so what’s the use right? The purpose of a press release hasn’t changed: it’s still a way to share one coherent branded story to the world.

It’s the world that’s changed. And in a world that’s continually hungry for the next hot thing, what better time for press releases.

All we need to do is step away from the misconception that a press release is simply a boring piece of text that we send to journalists. And what better time and tools than the digital.

Make it relevant

Sounds simple, but trust me - it ain’t. Instead of just sending out a general text to a lot of people, make it as relevant to your target audience as you can. If anything, press releases today force companies and PR professionals to truly specify who they want to reach and what they want to say. Because people are lazy.

So instead of consuming useless information, they look for useful, easy to skim, concise and relevant content. And they still like to be able to find all the information - yes, also of the company - in one document.

Use modern tech

We live in the era of tech, of social media and of connectivity. With all our forces combined, we can easily lift the press release from a boring piece of text to a multi-media information sharing tool. People tune in on design, on imagery and on video. Most people simply consume imagery better than text!

So use the tools available to communicate what you want to communicate, both to journalists as well as the general populace. Because in the end, does it really matter if news gets spread through formal media or through Google searches?

Let’s talk about the future

The first press release ever was written and distributed back in 1906 by a railroad company. It wasn’t shared to spread the happy news of a new railroad track or a fancier carriage. It was crafted to spread one clear story concerning a train accident near Atlanta, USA. And the press release has stuck around since then.

I would venture to say that any phenomenon that sticks around for over a 100 years holds some added value to a profession. The discussion concerning the death of the press release seems rather crass and unnecessarily polarizing.

I work in tech, so I’m all about innovating and disrupting. So instead of simply marking the press release as a relic of the stone age of PR, I say we start talking about the future of the press release in a digital, fast-moving and mobile world.

6 free ways to make your content visual

People are naturally attracted to images and, in case you didn’t notice, your readers are people too.

We like to share visuals more than text. According to a research from Ipsos, images are the most shared content online. Here you can find some more data to back this statement.

You can exploit this inclination to achieve your business goals. You can use images to make readers pay attention quickly, to make comparisons, to suggest and convey emotions. Even if your startup or your business have no visual declinations you can directly use, there are many ways to go visual according to your overall goals.

The starting assumption of this list is that you have no money to hire a designer, which would be the preferred way, in a perfect world.

1. Got data? Organize it in infographics with infogr.am

If you have data you want to show, you should go for an infographic.

When do press releases get the most views?

Infogr.am is the coolest tool I found to organize and visualize data. There are lots of possibilities, so take your time to check some examples and understand the best practices.

2. Got only ideas? Go for an online design tool like Canva

If you don’t have any data to show, but still want to give a visual touch to your content, a graphic design tool can help. No need to learn Photoshop. 

What is the best day to publish a press release?

My choice is Canva - easy, quick and complete. Do you know what’s even better? It’s fun! 

3. Got a presentation? Share it on Slideshare

Slideshare can be very interesting if you’re aiming at B2B users and have very good content to share. The copy from your presentation is added as text below, so you can attract an interesting audience.

Just like for your articles, coming up with a catchy title is literally half of the job. You can also look for tips about creating visual content!

4. Got an eye for details? Curate boards on Pinterest

Pinterest can be a strong tool in your visual marketing strategy for many reasons: it’s very simple to use and focuses on your passions and desires.

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It’s also good to know that 7 out of 10 users are women, and the total amount of users is bigger than Twitter, just to mention one. 

Read some marketing tips courtesy of Buffer.

5. Just need pictures? Get some on Getty Images

The right stock photos can generate strong feelings in your readers and help you set the frame for your content. 

You can embed any image from Getty - as long as you don’t use it for commercial purposes. Flickr, too, has a nice section to browse pictures under Creative Commons licenses.

For more sources and tips you can read this guide from CrazyEgg.

6. Got pen and paper? Draw your own chart!

It’s never too late to get creative and create stuff manually.

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I got fond of this one because I love to see how memes spread across the Internet. Moreover, since I’m Italian, Suarez’s bite also affected me personally :)

What are your favourite tools when it comes to going visual? Let us know in the comments or @prdotco.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.