Even with the widespread acceptance and adoption of new digital media channels like social media and streaming services, many firms’ marketing and PR departments still depend on ‘old fashioned’ press releases. Some companies even submit weekly press releases as their primary source of communication. Press releases are definitely useful and have their place, but budgets can easily top tens of thousands annually, with releases sometimes thousands for a national & international releases (not to mention up-charges for word count, images, metrics, and more). This budget often goes unnoticed as it is considered simply a cost of doing business. After all, press releases are required for PR… right?
Are Press Releases REQUIRED for PR?
Yes & No. The answer isn’t that simple. If you want to reach local news and TV media, press releases are still the the best way to announce newsworthy events. In the digital era, press releases get widespread attention through automated systems and putting news on the wire does ensure some ‘pickups’. But most people only read a few hundred words of the release at most. Understanding how to maximize the value of individual press releases will help you magnify the results of your release and minimize cost. More importantly, understanding alternative communication strategies allows you to cultivate earned media attention and alternative channels that provide more value.
Maximizing Your Press Release
When communicating through a press release, understanding how the newswire works can help you maximize value:
- The cost is based both on the region(s) the press release is distributed to and the length of the release in words. Typically there is a base regional rate charged but if the word count is over the prescribed maximum (typically between 300-500) extra will be billed.
- Regional distributions only get localized distribution to traditional media sources like radio, TV and newspapers. Despite being targeted locally, digital versions of releases to a region get the benefit automatic re-publishing of releases online, meaning a wide reach.
- Be succinct and information dense. Try to submit releases that have no excessive prose and are under the upcharge limit. The release should convey important information and context as clearly as possible.
- Determine the best region and trade publications to target with the release, don’t just assume ‘national is better’. For some releases and some companies, national releases make a lot of sense, for others, they really don’t.
- Give editors “exclusive” early access to relevant releases. This can cultivate relationships for later releases.
Earned Media Delivers Instant Value
Now that you are saving tens of thousands of marketing dollars from press releases, you can look to alternative channels to reach your audience. Earned media opportunities (bylines, interviews and exclusive information releases to mainstream or trade publications) deliver high value whether your goal is to gain awareness or collect and convert leads. The way to earn editorial content is to have a compelling story and a compelling pitch for the right editor. It’s always a huge bonus if your pitch has a timely/topical twist, making it a hot topic right now. Earned media can be published in print or digital channels, or both! Cost-efficiency is incredibly high with earned media because the only ‘cost’ is the time it takes to send pitches and write bylines.
SEO and Social Drive Ongoing Results
Beyond earned media is the vast universe of social media and organic web traffic. Online, website content ranks within search algorithms based on a complex and ever-changing keyword-based system. Consistent monitoring and tweaking of online content allows you to maximize your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and drive organic web traffic (traffic that finds you naturally, not through paid ads). Organic traffic is another highly cost-effective means to deliver marketing and PR value. SEO content lives online and, unless removed, delivers ongoing value. This content also provides an entry point to social media conversation. Sharing compelling, relevant content entices people to follow your social media accounts, simply because they enjoyed it and want to read more. Engaging in social media conversations and making your website a resource for interesting content builds a core audience who act like ambassadors, sharing articles and blogs they like.
Evolving your Communication Strategy
Working with a PR and digital marketing partner can help you plan and create compelling content that sparks conversations and allows you to engage with your audience, without spending $1,200 per 400 words. Not only is this organic content more compelling, it is more effective at communicating with an audience, creating brand awareness and driving meaningful web traffic. Having a comprehensive content and communications plan unifies your voice across channels and gives you the opportunity to have your ‘followers’ expand your audience for you.