The Old Press Release Remains Vital for Modern Times


A press release is a much different piece of writing than a blog. A blog can be informal, personal. Even a blog for a business site can show humor, introspection, speculation, pretty much anything that reinforces the one-to-one contact the writer wants to make with the reader, even if the blog is read by many.

A press release is about news. That's why it's also, and perhaps more accurately, called a news release. It's directed at editors and reporters, though in current times, press releases are also read directly by the public on company websites or through links on social media. That added social distribution is part of why the press release is still a valuable tool. Even if it is read directly by the public, however, it should read like a professional piece of news writing. It is not a sales pitch. Violate that rule and news organizations won't even bother to read any more releases from you, nor will the public. Sending a press release that's only about something mundane is also deadly.

What is news?

There are two factors to judge if an item rises to the level of news: impact and timeliness. If you paint your office, that's not news. If you have a local artist paint a mural on the outside wall of your business, that could be news to a local newspaper, nearby radio stations, and even a regional TV station  looking for a visual on a slow news day. Friends of the artists and the local arts community could end up posting it on personal Facebook pages.

If you have a nationally-known artist paint a mural, and even make it a community event by inviting the general public to paint-in portions within prepared outlines of the mural, regional newspapers and wire services could pick it up and even send a reporter and photographer/videographer to cover the event. A news network won't send anybody, but may show a local feed of the event just before the top of the hour. Videos from the public event shared by attendees go viral.

The item in this case is not even about the products or services your business offers. But it is about your company's standing and involvement in the community, and it provides a good hook for the news media.  Yet always in a press release from a business or organization, there's a short paragraph explaining what the company or group is about and what products and services it offers.

If you send out a release two weeks after the public event is over and the mural's done, no one cares.

Who thinks its news?

Distance and size are factors that help determine impact.  The size of the company and the size of its market help identify a company or organization's news zone. Promotions in management for a small or midsized company is only local news. A new CEO for the same company could be regional news. A new CEO for a major corporation makes the Wall Street Journal.

Since major corporations already have their own public relations departments, let's focus on small and midsized companies, and the news media that will cover their news.

Local media will usually find space or time for the following:

  • Starting a new business
  • Promotions in management
  • New product lines
  • Sponsorships of community events
  • Expansion plans
  • Increase in hiring
  • Awards or other recognition for the company or employees
  • Reaching a major milestone
  • Sponsoring a workshop/webinar
  • Forming an alliance or strategic partnership
  • Setting up a customer advisory group

There are many more reasons for a press release that local media will cover. Items like management staff promotions may end up only a couple of lines in a newspaper column or website listing focusing on business briefs, so some background you include in a press release may not be used by the press.  Yet you can post the complete release on a "news" page for your own website and link to it from a company Facebook page. The promoted managers on their own may link to the release from their personal Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and send out Tweets. Promotions can be a small piece of good news that ends up getting a pretty good bounce in local and social media.

Understand, of course, that you don't control what the news media will do with your release. A press release about a company's expansion plans may prompt a reporter to check out what changes in zoning are required, which may not always be good news for the company. But if you also address those issues in the same or follow-up release, and note the owner or other knowledgeable company official is are available for questions from the media, you can get ahead of the story before any controversy arises.

Indirect SEO

Changes in Google's search engine algorithms no longer search press releases sent through normal PR distribution services, but press releases remain valuable for SEO because of where press releases appear. Search engines will pick up on them when news media publishes them or uses them for basis of articles and briefs on their websites. Search engines will also notice links on social media that direct to your release published on your own website. While the distribution and sharing of a press release depends on the impact of your news and the interest it draws, the old school method for spreading the news is still a valuable tool in the 21st century.

  • Coming up next: How to work with a ghostwriter to write a press release.

(Image via Food for Thought)

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