A couple of decades ago, it was common for businesses to release press releases on an almost continuous basis, hoping to earn backlinks and positive press with each round of publishing. But these days, press releases function somewhat differently. They’re still incredibly important and potentially valuable, but you need to be thoughtful and strategic about how you utilize them.
The Purpose of a Press Release
Press releases are impressively effective components in your business’s PR and marketing strategies. The goal of a press release is to rapidly disseminate a story or pieces of information about your business to a wide audience. The press release, in its written form, generally tells a story about a new product you’ve developed, a new action you’re undertaking, or a response from the business about something that’s currently happening (which could be positive or negative).
Once distributed, the press release could be published in any number of offsite publications. It might be picked up by major national news outlets, local publishers, industry publishers, or some combination of these. In any case, if you make a push for it, your words can reach a wide audience.
Obviously, one of the main goals is getting people to see and read the actual press release. This increases the visibility of your brand and, if your press release is written well enough, can improve your brand reputation as well.
But press releases also serve the purpose of establishing links pointing to your website, which can boost your authority – and, therefore, your rankings in search engines.
The Old Days of Online Press Releases
Unfortunately, a decade ago, many marketing professionals used press releases as a mindless marketing gimmick, writing and distributing press releases as often as possible for even the most inconsequential details of a business’s operation. In other words, people spammed press releases as quickly as possible to generate brand visibility and potentially powerful links.
As a result, search engines and news outlets simultaneously cracked down on this practice, with the former no longer rewarding press releases as much in ranking considerations, and the latter becoming much stricter about the press releases they choose to distribute.
There are many good reasons to avoid this type of approach.
· Search engine considerations. Many websites now add the nofollow attribute to links included in press releases. While nofollow links can still be valuable, the inherent SEO value of each press release has been somewhat diminished. This doesn’t mean you should avoid press releases; it just means you should be more thoughtful and deliberate about how you produce and distribute them.
· Reader considerations. Readers don’t want to read fluff or thinly veiled advertisements. If you produce press releases using spammy tactics, you’re going to turn off the very people you’re trying to persuade.
· Messaging impact. If you publish press releases too rapidly or without any real forethought, the impact of your messaging is going to be diminished overall.
How to Use a Modern Press Release
Press releases still have a part to play in modern marketing and PR strategies. In fact, when utilized properly, they can be amazingly beneficial.
Here’s how to make sure your press releases are working in your favor:
· Report only on significant news. First, only write a press release if you have some significant news to announce. Major changes, upcoming events, and significant milestones are worth noting; the four-month anniversary of your business hiring another accounting intern is not.
· Write quality content. The days of packing your press releases full of keywords are over. There’s nothing wrong with including some strategically relevant phrases, but you should abstain from including unnatural words and phrases for the sole sake of SEO.
· Differentiate. Focus on what makes your business unique. People who read press releases are usually reading them by the dozens, so if your business seems indistinguishable from others in your industry, it’s not going to be memorable.
· Write a compelling headline. We all know that most people read headlines, but not the actual article – at least in most cases. And if your headline isn’t compelling, nobody is going to read your press release. Accordingly, one of your biggest priorities should be writing a compelling headline that concisely conveys your story while simultaneously drawing readers in. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it is necessary to see the best results.
· Make it engaging. Try to engage with your target demographics. Press releases necessarily have a flatter, more journalistic style than other forms of writing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun with this strategy.
· Cross-promote. Distributing a press release usually entails putting it in the hands of hundreds or even thousands of different outlets. But if you want to boost visibility further, you need to be willing to cross-promote it. Feature it on your website. Send it to your email subscribers. Popularize it on social media.
· Crunch the numbers. Always measure and analyze your performance. Once you understand the impact you’re making, you can make your future press releases even better.
Press releases remain one of the best ways to increase visibility for your brand and spread exciting news when you have some to announce. However, the practices of writing low-effort press releases and distributing them at light speed have become obsolete. If you want your press releases to truly work for you, you need to put in the effort.