While most companies still use press releases as the standard format to communicate with journalists, chasing that top of the fold story in the Wall Street Journal, or a feature in your important trade publications, the publishing landscape has changed drastically and so has the press release value proposition. Everyone – individuals and companies – are now publishers, and press releases can be an important piece of your content mix, but shouldn’t be your only communication vehicle.
Just 15 short years ago, companies spent weeks laboriously drafting press releases and planning distribution. Great media lists and relationships were critical and wire distributions were likely the most important push mechanism to get your news to the world. Some may also remember that this was the era of the fax machine. Remember those? Who uses those today? Anyway, you would push your news over the wire, fax to journalists and mail hard copies to others. Lastly, you’d call each of your top targets to pitch them on why they should cover your news. Journalists were the primary gatekeepers for the mass media channel and thus your purchasing public. That isn’t always the case now that the media industry has evolved, largely into smaller, more granular outlets and publishers.
Today, we see many companies, bloggers and other Websites with equal or better circulation numbers than many old-school media outlets. The playing field has been leveled and you need to understand how self-publishing should shape your marketing and communication efforts.
Build content for each appropriate channel – mass media, self-publishing and social media. Some may overlap and each can certainly be leveraged to draft the next piece of content. Some examples include:
- Press Releases – still a great way to reach media, but also a great Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tool for your Website and/or publishing platform. Leveraged correctly, press releases can get you in front of the right editors and drive traffic to your Web real estate directly. Be sure to pick a good wire service that pushes to as many news auto-aggregators as possible. These are news sites that automatically scan wires and add releases to their own databases – typically for at least a week or two. Even some of the cheaper wire options get reposted by hundreds of news outlets. This may not get you on the first page of the Journal, but it sure helps your Web efforts. You should continue to do one-on-one pitching to accurate media and analyst lists.
- Self-Publishing, Blogging – With proper tagging and indexing, your self-published content can show up as top results on Google and other search engines. People often turn to search engines first when they have questions, and with minimal effort you can place your news above media-driven content. Be sure to write in a balanced voice. Remember that people are turned off by self-serving views. Biased perspectives and conclusions are discounted and quickly forgotten. Use outside experts and credible statistics to support your arguments where possible.
- Video, Multimedia – Text is great, but the Web can support so much more. Video, especially, can differentiate your content and drive more viewers. Great visuals for articles can do the same. It is true that a picture can be worth a thousand words, and with the popularity of YouTube, which is now the second most popular search engine, video is worth much more.
So remember that the press release is still a very important tool in PR, but that there are many other channels you should explore to get your message out. Various stakeholders (prospects, customers, employees, media, analysts, investors and more) may also prefer one over the other. Be sure to create well-written, credible content and repurpose for all relevant channels. Don’t wait on a journalist to write a feature for you – push out your content today, and on a consistent basis.
Good luck pitching.
About the Author:
Jon Stotts is founder of eXprtMedia & Marketing and has 14 years experience managing marketing and communication programs for technology and financial services focused companies. He has spent much of his career inside technology companies, managing multiple external agencies. Stotts has extensive experience working with all types of technology firms, international companies looking to increase business in the U.S., venture and private equity-backed companies, publicly traded companies and mergers & acquisitions. Stotts holds a degree in journalism from Georgia State University and an MBA from the Stern School of Business at New York University.