5 Reasons You Should Be Writing Press Releases This Year
“Are press releases still relevant? Should we be producing them?”
New clients frequently ask this, and it’s a fair question. A lot has changed since I wrote my first press release in 1987 (yes, I was only a teenager and yes, you’re welcome to do the math). I haven’t written a tri-fold brochure in years, for instance, and a lot of what I learned in journalism class is now obsolete (including the idea that anyone can make a decent living in journalism, but I digress).
Press releases have changed too, but despite predictions to the contrary, they are far from irrelevant. In fact, due to the many ways that they’ve evolved, press releases remain one of an organization’s most valuable marketing buys. Here are five big reasons why.
One: Local Media Coverage Is Still a Bargain
If your organization advertises in any local media and/or has a local audience, it is hard to beat the ROI on a few well-timed, well-targeted press releases combined with a good relationship with regional business writers and editors.
Around here (Charlotte, NC), a ¼-page black-and-white ad in the local business journal, where it will be smashed together with all the other ¼-page ads at the back of the publication, costs more than $3,300 for the placement, and that doesn’t count creative or copywriting. For that price, you could easily produce and distribute three press releases to multiple local publications. If any one of the publications picks up your story, they’ll throw in the cost of creative and copywriting for free (in the form of their journalists covering the story), and add in a huge dose of credibility to boot. Plus, you’ll almost certainly receive better positioning in the publication than any ad at that price will get.
If your story is picked up more than once, your ROI multiplies.
Of course, a press release is not a guarantee. You won’t get coverage for every single release you send out, and you won’t get to control the quality or angle of the coverage. But, when done right, press releases represent a major bargain over the cost of advertising.
Here are a few things you need to know for your best chance at scoring some local coverage:
- Focus on topics of interest to a local market. Good topics include: Company anniversaries, executive promotions, acquisitions (especially of other local companies), new product or service lines, awards and accomplishments (especially national recognition), significant charitable contributions (raising a record amount of money or announcing a new pro bono partnership, e.g.), and public events.
- Add a local angle. Local media are much more likely to pick up your story if they can easily see how it’s relevant to their local audience.
- Target the right editor. Business topics go to business editors. Events topics go to events editors. Publications sometimes have “people” sections where they print promotion and new hire notices. Read each publication, decide where your news belongs, and check the masthead for the right person.
- Build relationships. An editor who is familiar with, and respects, your organization is much more likely to read your press release. Seek them out at local events, buy them coffee, and ask them how you can provide them with more relevant information.
Two: Trade Magazine Coverage Is a Remarkably Good Value—And Remarkably Easy To Achieve
Industry and trade publications are often hungry for content and easy to build relationships with. You may already know members of the board of your trade association. At minimum, you’re probably a member of one or two. Most organizations are happy to publish member news for free, as long as it’s relevant and presented in a format they can easily digest for their purpose.
Advertising rates at these publications tend to be comparable to those at local media, so if you can convince them to run a story on your organization, you’ll score yet another bargain. However, not every organization benefits from this type of coverage. It’s most likely to be worth pursuing if any of the following criteria apply to you:
- You currently advertise in trade magazines. If so, then regular press releases are truly a no-brainer. You’ll get better positioning and greater credibility at a lower price point, and because you already advertise, they’re more likely to pick up your story (the law of reciprocity being what it is).
- Industry relationships and partnerships are an important part of your business. Publication in trade magazines will increase your visibility with these audiences, as well as your credibility.
- Building authority in your industry is part of your strategy. Coverage in trade magazines automatically raises your profile within your industry. You can further expand its impact by sharing this valuable third-party coverage with a wider audience.
- Search engine results (SEO) matter for you. Coverage in an online version of a trade publication provides valuable, relevant inbound links to your site, increasing the authority of your site and thereby, generally speaking, improving SEO results across the board.
Successful placement in trade magazines is generally not difficult if you follow a few guidelines. Here’s how to get it right:
- Send relevant stories. Read the publications to see what kind of news they usually cover, and cater to it. If they publish promotions, acquisitions, and new product lines, then you may be able to send them the same press release you’re sending to local media, with a few tweaks. Some trade publications like to publish human-interest stories. We’ve had tremendous success placing these type of stories, earning anywhere from a quarter page to as much as a six-page full-color spread from a single press release. Once the publications know to expect quality content from us, they readily place almost everything we send them.
- Make the writing good. Industry publications are frequently run as a cost center and, as a result, are often short staffed. If you can give them high quality, interesting, relevant news in a form that requires very little massaging on their part, they will love you forever. Or, at least, give you lots of inexpensive coverage.
- Target the right people. Just as with the local media, if you send your story to the wrong editor or writer, it’s likely to go unnoticed. Your best bet is to build relationships with the staff. Ask them what kind of stories they like to see, and what you can do to make your news more useful to them. Take the editors and writers to dinner at the next trade show. Treat them well, and you’ll earn more time in their inbox, which in turn earns more opportunities to hit their pages.
Three: Press Releases Are a Best Practice for Updating Stakeholders
In every company, good communication is a key success factor. For growth-oriented organizations, that means keeping partners, investors, clients, and board members in the loop on growth, accomplishments, product releases, and other developments as they unfold. Press releases are the de rigueur method for this critical communication.
To use press releases successfully for this purpose:
- Highlight topics of interest to the specific audience. Good choices: Evidence of strong revenue growth, sales numbers, quarterly updates, awards and accomplishments, leadership appointments, acquisitions, new product or service offerings, and joint ventures.
- Email each stakeholder group separately, so you can tailor the press release. Place the headline in the subject line and paste the release directly into the body of the email for ease of reading. Provide a link to a pdf they can download and print to share with others.
Four: Press Releases Provide Valuable Touch Points for the Sales Process
It can take 7-13 touches to develop a qualified sales lead, and another 5 to 25 touches to close the sale. For organizations with long sales cycles, regular press releases provide sales people with a valuable tool for continuing to build relationships and demonstrate the company’s legitimacy, growth, and strategic positioning. Additionally, if you’re in fast growth mode, press releases help build credibility with potential partners.
Again, the key lies in understanding your audiences and tailoring the topic to their interests.
Five: Press Releases Contribute to SEO (But Not Quite How You Think)
In the old days, SEO was simple. You stuffed a page full of keywords, traded links with a bunch of link farms, and waited for your page to rise to the top. If you’ve been around since the 90s, you may remember the frustration of clicking through to a top-ranked page filled with the same two words in every sentence, buried in a sea of ads for beachfront property in Nicaragua and pills for anatomical enlargement. Fortunately, Google’s come a long way.
Unfortunately, that makes getting those front-page results more difficult, even for legitimate companies. Press releases have a reputation for contributing to positive SEO simply by existing, but the truth is much more complex. Sitting idle on your website, a press release will contribute only minimally to results, but used wisely, they can lead to a significant boost. Here’s why:
- Google likes sites that have lots of healthy inbound links from authoritative sites—like those local and trade media you’ve been courting with your press releases. Every time you win coverage with a link back to your site, Google gives you a little authority boost, which over time can improve overall results.
- Google takes a site’s history, activity level, and quantity of content into account in its rankings. Regular press releases contribute to all three measures (on the other hand, so do blogging and producing regular white papers and case studies, so consider the relative value of other measures carefully before choosing based on this characteristic alone).
- Google will usually give your own website preference in search results for your brand name. When it finds lots of content with your brand name on your domain name (such as press releases sitting on your site), it will frequently rank that content highly. Why does this matter? Because when someone searches for your company online, they’ll see your content first, sometimes pages deep, rather than someone else’s opinion of your company.
There are so many great uses for press releases, that we’re sure we’ve left a few out. Post them in the comments or connect with us on Twitter to tell us your ideas.
Also, be sure to check out our guide to writing a killer press release (with downloadable templates and samples!), or find out how much it costs to outsource the task here. We look forward to hearing from you!
Fen Druadìn Head (formerly Heather Head) is an author, as well as the founder of Scopcity. When she is not writing, running the business, or chasing down bad guys on Twitter, she enjoys hiking, snuggling with her husband and three boys, and avoiding the kitchen.