How to Build Successful News Releases
Ever since Ivy Lee issued the first news release back in 1906, this workhorse has served as the de facto communication vehicle for PR pros. While it’s still a core public relations tool, the news release has evolved with the times and now performs a multitude of new marketing functions along with more traditional ones:
- A news release can inspire journalists and bloggers to lend credible third-party endorsements for your organization, its products and services.
- A news release sends your messages to search engines, websites and social channels, creating brand awareness among customers and bloggers. This can open up new markets and uncover new influencers.
- You can use a news release to drive traffic to your website where you can collect and convert sales leads.
- Links in your news release to your website can also help your company rank higher on search engines.
- A news release can help your brand establish industry expertise and thought leadership.
- Post-distribution reports can help you make more informed decisions about your content and campaigns, and more deeply understand and leverage the business impact of your communications.
- Compared with most other forms of marketing, a news release is a more effective, low-cost way to spread your message and connect with your audience.
So how do you build and distribute a news release that accomplishes all of this? Here are a few top-line suggestions. In later blog posts we’ll delve into some of these points in greater detail.
Although people are bending traditional formatting rules, news releases should still include the basics outlined below. When creating your content, make sure you look at your messages from the outside in — how they will be received by the people you want to reach and engage.
- Slant: Look at your news from the perspective of your audience. Ask yourself “What’s In It For Them (WIIFT)?” Also, have a legitimate news angle; a news release is not a cloaked advertisement.
- Headline: Make your headline descriptive and compelling, and try to keep it to 80 characters.
- First paragraph: Summarize all the important information here, and use subsequent paragraphs for supportive information.
- Body copy: Don’t Use “gobbledygook” or industry buzzwords. Be succinct; don’t repeat and ramble. Consider using bullet points to quickly summarize key points.
- Quotes: Use a quote or two to add a human element and express subjective thoughts that lend color to your news.
- Boilerplate: In 100 words or less, at the end of your release summarize what your company does, using words that help position you against your competitors. Include your stock symbol if your company is publicly traded.
- Media contact: Make sure you include a person’s name, email address and phone number so reporters or bloggers have someone to follow up with for additional information and/or interviews.
Optimizing and Enhancing
After you write your content, make it work harder by including links to supportive information on your website and adding visuals to attract and engage people.
- Links: Identify your best keywords and include a link using the primary one toward the beginning of your release. Insert other links to internal pages on your website, but use keywords sparingly. Always use anchor text, and don’t repeat links, since that diminishes their value.
- Multimedia: Consumers spend more time on a news release with an image or video than one without — plus, adding multimedia contributes to greater sharing potential. In addition, visuals often remain on websites long after the text of your release is gone. Be sure to name your visuals with descriptive words so search engines can find and properly display them, and always use image alt attributes in case your images don’t appear.
Distributing and Posting
Where and when you send your news releases affects their visibility and audience engagement. When making your selections of newslines and distribution channels, always align your distribution strategy with your PR or business objectives. After issuing a few releases and analyzing their performance you’ll be able to fine tune your strategy and improve results.
- Audiences: A single news release can reach multiple audiences in multiple ways, all at the same time. Depending on your objectives, you can reach broad or narrow geographies, or you can send your release to niche or specialty markets. You can also distribute it to relevant industry trade publications, and even send it to your personal lists and post it to your social channels.
- Timing: Mondays are popular, but Tuesdays are even more so; Marketwired registers the greatest number of news releases that day. Fridays are the least busy day of the work week, and almost no releases go out on weekends. The 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. (ET) time slot is the most popular. Consider sending your release at an off hour to get more notice, but do some testing first to see what works best for you.
- Repurposing: Extend the life of your news release by posting it to your online newsroom, blog and social channels. Tweet about it. Upload video assets to your YouTube channel. If your audience spends more time on Pinterest, then you’ll want to create “pinnable” content (images or video). Likewise, if you’ve built up a strong Tumblr following, include multimedia in the release that can be effectively tumbled.
Equally important to issuing a release is analyzing how well it performed. Every news release you distribute should feed into a business objective. You can track and measure success through these three key indicators:
- Reach: Reach tells you where your release was sent by media type and geographic location. You can also drill down to exact location, city and media outlet.
- Access: Access gives you information about how people came upon your release (e.g., direct traffic or through search engines). You can also see clips of what sites posted your release or its headline.
- Engagement: Engagement shows how people interacted with your release. You can see what links and multimedia assets people clicked on the most, who shared your release on which social networks, and who mentioned your release on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Digg.
News releases offer more opportunities than ever before to expand your brand’s visibility and help achieve your goals. You can find out more about how to create successful news releases by downloading our tip sheet: 5 Easy Steps to Great Online Communication.