JournalismSocial Media

Use News Releases for More Than PR

I’ve been down on news releases before on this blog, but only because I think there are better options for securing publicity. That doesn’t mean you should ditch news releases altogether. There are other benefits to writing and distributing news releases.

News releases help you maintain brand awareness, keep core audiences informedimprove your PageRank and increase website traffic. Press releases should be a staple of your ongoing communications program, and It would be a mistake to stop writing and sending news releases.

While not all activity in your company is worthy of coverage in a reputable media outlet, you should still consider sending a news release out on a wire service to keep your customers informed, improve your PageRank, drive traffic to your website or maintain brand awareness in your target markets. If these goals are important to you, consider sending a minimum of one news release per month…The challenge with sending a release a month is it’s not always easy to come up with good ideas for news releases. Unless you’re a professionally-trained journalist, sniffing out stories in your company can be tricky. Even if you are a journalist, you might not think some news is actually news. I’ve provided some excuses for you to write a news release below.

I’m suggesting these as excuses to maintain brand awareness, keep your customers informed, and driving traffic to your website. You should NOT send these releases to media outlets unless you know they cover this sort of thing.

  • Launch a new website – most people will tell you not to waste your time announcing things like a new website – I would normally be one of those people. However, if you want to announce your new website (and provided there is something of value on your site), why not announce it? I recently advised a company to try it out and they received several hundred unique visitors from the release the day their new microsite launched – they thought it was worth it.
  • Add or change a service – if you add a new service, or change something with the services you currently offer, announce it in a news release. You should also tell your customers via phone, email, fax, Twitter, Facebook, and any other medium they tune into, but send a release too. Who knows, you might generate interest from new customers.
  • Hire somebody – if you hire a new employee, send out a news release. Personnel releases don’t get a lot of pickup, unless the new employee is a director of above. More important than the publicity, let the employee know you appreciate them. Let your clients, partners and other employees know you’ve expanded your team. There are a lot of benefits to sending out a new employee release.
  • Give them a raise – along the same lines as the new hire release, if you promote somebody, let the world know. You’d be surprised how many people in your network don’t know the other people that work with you. Sending out a news release is a great way to announce that.
  • Fix something that’s broken – sometimes things break. Sometimes servers crash. Sometimes you make customers upset. When bad things happen, fix them fast and let everyone know you did.
  • And when things go right – a lot of organizations do case studies or testimonials for their websites or marketing collateral. Customer success stories also make great content for a news release. What’s better than “Customer saves X dollars with Y service”? The trick with success stories is getting past the lawyers (getting approval to share success metrics publicly), but don’t give up. It’s worth the extra effort to try and make this happen. If you don’t have any luck, send your happy customers a Flip camera and a list of questions you’d like them to answer – turn those into video testimonials for your website or YouTube Page (you can embed the video into a release later, as an example of a happy customer).
  • Offer a significant sale or discount – don’t just put a sign up in your window or put your circular in the weekend edition, announce your sale or specials in a news release. If you can, include a link to a page on your website where people can download and print a coupon (a great way to track the ROI of your PR efforts).
  • Host an open house – you go to your office every day, so you might not realize how cool it is. Why not host an event at your office and invite people in to check things out?
  • Talk about growth – do you have more employees now than you did last year? More money? More anything? Write a news release and summarize your progress. A lot of companies want to keep this information private, and I respect that, but it’s one of the easiest ways to get business reporters in your market interested in writing about your organization. Don’t be afraid to talk about numbers.
  • Share lessons learned – have a bad year? Make a mistake in the past that taught you a valuable lesson? Why not help other businesses learn as well? You can package your release as ‘tips’ for entrepreneurs, or adapt to a tips release for whatever industry you’re in.
  • Share survey results – one of the most-successful press release tactics I’ve seen used in the past is to conduct a survey and package the survey results as a report or news release.
  • Research – find you can’t find information on a particular topic? Rather than search tirelessly for research that might not exist or cost thousands of dollars, do your own research on a topic – piece together information that exists across a lot of different sources online and package the results in a report. Highlight your findings in a release and distribute it. In this instance, you could probably get publicity with this type of release.
  • Share your opinion or perspective – is there a particular issue in your industry that you just have to chime in on? If you can’t get media attention to share your opinion, just package your perspective as a news release – a statement if you will – and distribute it. It lets people know where you stand on a topic. You should tread lightly on controversial topics that could have a negative impact on your business – and if you have any doubt at all, consult with your public relations manager (or lawyer) before sending something out that could backfire.
  • Promote employee activities – your company has a family picnic, a holiday party or you all go play paintball. Get some of the great pictures and include them in your release. Why would you do a silly thing like that? The next people you hire might like to see stuff like that. Culture is important when people are searching for that next job. Happy employees make for quality work product too – customers like to hire companies with friendly and productive team members.
  • Interview customers or employees – is one of your employees an expert on a topic? Do you have an interesting client? Interview them on a timely or interesting topic. You can play the role of journalist for a change.

A Couple More Points on Why This is So Important

For most of these examples, you could easily use your blog as the medium for communicating these topics. You won’t get all the SEO benefits of a news release, but in some ways, the blog will benefit you more. I like using both (provided you don’t use duplicate content). If you don’t have a blog, you should certainly consider using news releases as your outlet.

If you send out a minimum of one news release per month, and each release gets picked up an average of 12 times, and you include links to your website(s) in the release (preferably with anchor text), that’s at least 144 new inbound links to your website. But really, that’s the worst-case scenario. You will probably do more than 12 releases, and the pickup would be much greater than that. And that doesn’t include the inbound links generated from social media.

Inbound links are only part of the SEO boost you get from news releases. If you’re posting the releases to your website and summarizing your releases as a blog post or newsletter article, you’re adding to the number of indexed pages on your site.

When you consider that it takes 12-16 impressions (if you believe in reach and frequency) before somebody remembers your brand name, how could you go wrong sending out a few news releases? If you make it a habit to share your news, you’ll have fewer people asking “so what does your company do” at networking events.

I hope this list helps you brainstorm some new press release ideas for your company. If you have ideas I didn’t cover in this list, please add your thoughts in the comments below.

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