Once upon a time, only editors at traditional media outlets read press releases. In today’s digital age, however press releases have morphed into media releases because distribution is broader. Potential customers and other stakeholders can access your media releases via search engines, industry websites, consumer websites, social media, blogs and even on your company website.
As a result, writing a media release means communicating directly with your audience instead of simply trying to attract the interest of an editor or reporter.
Here are the basic rules for an effective media release strategy:
- Create media releases on a regular basis, not just when you have major news to share.
- Write with potential buyers in mind; try to appeal to their needs and interests.
- Use keywords appropriate for your business so search engines will find you.
- Create a call to action within the media release: a promotional offer, free information available on your website, new maintenance tips, etc.
- Link to your website, social media and blogs so web readers will be able to easily visit your site.
- Distribute your media release to a variety of online sources so as many people as possible can view your message.
Since you can communicate directly with customers, focus on their needs. Provide potential customers with the information they need – and have a reason – to find your company online. Information to share includes:
- New ways to solve common problems
- New products or product features
- Awards or public recognition
- New customers
- New markets entered, new locations established
- New staff
- New business methods getting a “buzz” in your industry
Again, don't think about media releases under the old premise of hoping to attract an editor or reporter. A good media release informs current or potential customers and helps them find you; an announcement sharing the news that you just landed a major new customer may cause other potential customers to check you out. The same is true if you win an industry award; while your local newspaper may not be interested, customers may be.
Once you decide what to communicate, how do you craft the ideal release?
- Use a standard format. Most media releases follow a consistent format. Check one out online and you'll notice contact information appears at the top along with the date of the release. Then write a catchy title, focusing on the benefits of reading the release. In the first paragraph, summarize the event or news you wish to share. In subsequent paragraphs, expand on that summary. Focus on the five "W’s" of journalism: Who, What, When, Where and Why.
- Focus on benefits. The best media releases include news readers can use. If you are launching a new product, who will that product benefit? How will it make the lives of your customers better? What problem will it solve?
If your company won an award, what does that award represent to your customers? Outstanding service? Long-lasting products? Focus not just on what you want to share but on why it is important to your readers – and how they will benefit from the knowledge they gain.
- Include quotes. At minimum, include one or two quotes from company representatives, and if appropriate, from customers or other parties relevant to the release. If you plan to participate in a charitable event, include a quote from the event organizer explaining the importance of the charity or showing how your company will help make a real difference for example. If you land a major customer, let that customer briefly explain why they chose your company; most will be happy to do so since they will receive publicity from your media release.
- Stay short and to the point. Most media releases are no longer than one page; some are only two or three paragraphs long. Revise your release until it is clear, concise, and direct.
- Use the right keywords. Remember, many customers will find your release as the result of a web search so make it easy for them! Use the same keywords in your media release that you use on your website. Make sure you focus on terms your customers use; while you may sell "flatware," many of your customers may search using the keyword "silverware".
- Link to your site. Make sure readers can find you. Don't just include contact information; provide direct links to your website.
Once your media release is ready, it's time for distribution. The best way to reach the greatest number of potential readers is to distribute using several sources. For example, if you hope to attract the interest of a particular newspaper, by all means send your media release to the appropriate editor – and don’t send it as an attachment. Place it in the body of the email. That way, busy editors will be less likely to delete it.
Then, post the release on your website, and send it to at least one of the online news release services – again, in the body of your message. That way other trade and industry sites might find and post your release, too. What’s more, the search engines will more easily find you.
Here are a few of the largest news release distribution services:
- PR Web: www.prweb.com
- PR Newswire: www.prnewswire.com
- MarketWired: www.marketwired.com
- Business Wire: www.businesswire.com
- GlobeNewswire: www.globenewswire.com
Most online news services require a subscription or a per-release fee. Some will limit your release to a geographic area, but most include distribution to sites like Google News on a worldwide basis. Since you want the most potential readers and customers as possible, make sure you post your releases to a service that is included on major online news sites.
Most importantly, post the release to your own website and social media. Many online news sites do not keep archives of old media releases; your release may only be "live" for a few months. Maintaining the release on your site ensures search engines can always find your content.
In addition, keep a list of social media participants and bloggers that write on topics related to your company and distribute your releases to them. The bottom-line is that today’s media release can garner a much higher return-on-investment because the potential outlets for distribution are so much broader.