Leverage the power of the press with news releases

Welcome back!  In this fourth post of our series on content development strategy, we are going to explore the power of the (online) press release as another content marketing tool we can use to drive traffic to our site (or if a local business, foot traffic to our store).  Harkening back to pre-internet days (remember those?), the news release is a traditional marketing tool used by businesses both large and small to generate publicity.  Editors benefit by having timely, ready-to-publish news on hand, and readers appreciate the fresh content.  It’s a winning strategy for all concerned, if all goes well.

Nowadays, while the process is a bit more complicated and distribution is no longer necessarily free, the news release still has the power to instantaneously reach a vast readership, and can serve you in establishing your expertise in your field, showcasing your work with a client, or announcing a new product or service.  And besides its potential to go viral, a well-written release can attract quality inbound links, drive new traffic to your site, and boost your search engine ranking.  In an SEO success cycle, this in turn can lead to even more visibility, sales, brand development and recognition.

So while the news release may be a conventional marketing tool, it is robust, and readily lends itself to relatively new SEO content marketing applications.  So as we did with articles and blogs, let’s now look at the pros and cons of news releases.

News Releases: Pros and Cons

News Release Pros:

  • News releases are relatively brief and to the point, generally running one-to-two pages, double-spaced.  After you get familiar with writing them, you can expect a reasonably quick turn-around.
  • Once you get to know some editors in your local or vertical market, it’s easier to pitch your release to them.  You can also get to know their preferences and write your release accordingly, making it all the more likely that they’ll reprint it.
  • Once editors are familiar with you, they’ll likely call you when they need a fast expert quote.  And if you’re really fortunate, an editor may use your news release as the basis of a longer, in-depth article that features you as an expert source.
  • You can leverage the power of a well-optimized news release, using your SEO skills to dominate Google News.  You can also elevate your own expert status in your market with a regular news release strategy.

News Release Cons:

  • The key to the news release is “newsworthy,” and that can be a challenging test, especially if the release is meant for the national market.  While you may find it compelling that your client has expanded their store, most won’t.  Test your content’s news value by asking yourself if you’d read the release:  would the information grab your attention?  If not, then it probably won’t interest an editor either.
  • As noted, news releases are no longer guaranteed free distribution.  “Putting a release on the national wire” – whereby a news distribution service sends your release out to hundreds of publications – can mean an investment of a few hundred dollars in distribution fees.  Although there are free news release distribution services, many have noted that the service wasn’t as effective and the release itself wasn’t perceived to be as credible had it been distributed by one of the recognized wire services (such as Business Wire or PR Newswire).
  • There is no guarantee that every publication will pick up your release; in fact, most won’t.  Once you release the news, you’ve no control over what happens with it.  You can’t assume that the news release will drive traffic to your site.  It might bring hundreds of visitors, or it might bring none.  You have to be willing to accept that hard reality.
  • If you’re used to copywriting, or promoting of any kind, you may find it difficult to gear down your tone.  The news release is not the venue; it is meant to be news.

How to Structure Your News Release

A news release should read like a concise news article.  In journalism, the structure is referred to as “the inverted pyramid,” as that is what is would look like diagramed. First address the four W’s: Who, What, Where, When, preferably in the first two paragraphs.  The body should answer How, and then Why, if the subject calls for it.  More guidelines follow:

  • The standard format for a news release is dictated by the “journalist’s bible,” the Associated Press Stylebook.   Generally, a release is one page, double-spaced, although one-to-two pages is fine if the topic calls for it.  Be sure to hyperlink your company name and include your contact information at the beginning.  If you’re running more than one page, put “—more—“ at the bottom of the first page.  At the end of the release, insert three hash tags (###), -30-, or END.
  • Start by asking yourself, “What’s hot in the industry now?”  Think of way to tie into it.  For instance, are you announcing a new service that fills an industry gap?  Can you create a release out of a case study?  Think about what kind of news would grab your attention.
  • Delete any promotional or sale-sy words from your press release.  Again, this is journalism, not copywriting.  Stick to the facts and strive for an economy of words.  If you find yourself reverting to promotion, consider having another person review the release before submitting it.  Editors will flat-out reject a news release that smacks of self-promotion.  And even if you do manage to slip one through, it’ll sound spammy relative to the other releases.
  • That said, you do need a “hook,” something that editors will find “sexy” or interesting to their readers.  Think of it as a news angle, and incorporate it in your first sentence so it pulls the reader into the piece.
  • It is advisable to include a quote from yourself, or whoever the expert source may be, in the body of the release.  Be sure it sounds natural, if it is to be from you.  A canned, forced quote is not advised.
  • If it fits the intent of the release, include a second quote from another source.  It’ll sound that much more informational and that much less promotional, and will lend credence to your expert status.
  • You’ll want to optimize your news release as you normally would your other content, hyperlinking your keyphrases whenever possible.  Depending on the topic, you may have to limit your focus to only one or two keyphrases, and that is okay for a new release.

That’s the scoop on tapping the power of the press by writing news releases.  Thanks for visiting – and be sure to come back next week for the final post of our content strategy series, when we’ll discuss leveraging Twitter.  See you then!