The traditional features release  with its consumer-directed, ready-to-go content is ideal for exposing your messages to a diverse audience. But features releases can accomplish another goal. Because features stories now appear on media websites and search engines that reach millions of people online, with a little creativity and planning your features release can become a valuable tool for measuring the success of your PR and marketing activities. Not only can you reach new target audiences, but you can also drive them to your website where you’re able to track traffic patterns, garner new business leads and even generate revenue. In short, features releases can play an important role in gathering market intelligence and demonstrating measurable ROI.
Include Features Releases in Your Content Marketing Strategy.
Content marketing is hot. It’s a way for organizations, whether large or small, B2B or B2C, to communicate with their customers in a way that doesn’t involve direct selling. By delivering valuable information to your customers you create credibility and trust, and in the process, you earn their loyalty and business.
A features release is an ideal component of a content marketing campaign. Try using a “hub and spoke” approach in which all of your campaign-specific content assets such as white papers, Web content, blog posts and your features release (the spokes) link to a central hub such as a microsite or landing page specific to the campaign.
By including a unique tracking hyperlink in your features release you’re able to identify how much traffic it drives to your landing page in comparison with your other tactics. And on that landing page, which includes a call to action or offer, you can see how many of the people who read your features release take advantage of your offer. That’s a measurement you can apply directly to determining return on investment.
Reach the Right People. Begin by Listening.
How do you know if your features story will appeal to the people you want to attract? Begin by “eavesdropping” in on the social media conversations your customers and target audiences are having with each other. You can learn a lot about their issues, challenges, needs and wants and you might even find new types of audiences for your products or services. There are free and paid monitoring tools to accomplish this such as BlogPulse, SocialMention, Facebook Search and Sysomos . Once you’re armed with this intelligence you’re ready to translate your messages into a features story that addresses the general themes under discussion. You’re also in a position to join in and contribute to the most pertinent of those social media conversations and, when appropriate, include a link to your features release to support your points.
As with any online content asset, make sure you incorporate relevant keywords in your features release so it will appear at the top of search engine results pages when your target audiences are searching for those topics.
When you make your features release part of your content marketing strategy you multiply its potential reach many times over through print and online newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and websites – many with audiences that number in the millions. Here are two examples:
- EmpowHER Offers Resources to Help Women Manage Holiday Stress 
- Fall Gardening Is Easier Than Ever 
Features Themes for 2012: Now Is the Time to Plan
Marketwire just published its new 2012 Features Calendar that includes topics and copy deadlines found on 2012 media editorial calendars. Take a moment to check it out. You’ll find great ideas for timely topics that you can align with the products and services your organization offers. Put on your creative hat to find a new, interesting slant. Perhaps you can write a how-to features story to educate people about your industry. Or you could describe how your organization solved a particular problem or addressed a need. Again, align this content around what interests people who might be potential buyers for your products or services. Remember to keep your angle interesting and content timeless to boost your chances of media publication. There’s no limit to the possibilities.
Be sure to read these related posts about maximizing the impact of your online content:
- Ask the Expert: 5 great tips on how to create content and conversations, courtesy of Rebecca Lieb 
- The 5 Ws of successful website content 
- 4 ways to rethink how we measure our content marketing ROI