Get Your Press Releases Read and Shared

8 tips for getting your press releases read and shared

By Russell Working

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ new distance-learning portalRaganTraining.com. The site contains more than 200 hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. For membership information, please click here. 

The press release is dead—or so we keep hearing.

But somebody forgot to tell Sarah Skerik, vice president of content marketing for PR Newswire.

“No one reads press releases?” she says. “I’m sorry, I have data otherwise. People read them by the millions.”

The thing is, press releases can be written well or handled badly. In a session titled “Proving the Value of PR Across the Organization,” she explains that press releases are content that can be widely shared—if you make it interesting and shareable.

“People are tweeting the daylights out of press releases,” she says.

Her comments come as many in public relations express doubt about the value of the press release. In a recent piece for the HubSpot blog, a former Newsweek reporter states that he deleted nearly every press release he received.

He quotes one industry pro who says: “The simple press release should have died years ago. In my mind, they’re dead already.”

Skerik, however, says press releases keep pulling in readers. Ten years ago, she would have told you that most of the people who will read your press release do so within 72 hours.

Today, press releases accrue only half their reads over the first four days. The rest of the readers continue to find the press release over the next four months and beyond.

Here are some tips from Skerik:

1. Write the way you talk.

Search engines prefer natural language, not jargon or marketing-speak. So do readers. Write naturally and use good grammar, Skerik says.

2. Cut back on links.

Skerik analyzed the worst-performing 500 out of a set of 20,000 press releases to figure out why these were the bottom feeders.

“I did find that the duds almost to an item had a preponderance of links within the release,” she says. “Every other word it seems has links, and it’s really annoying to the reader. And search engines saw it as spam.”

3. Avoid the use of Unnecessary Capitalization.

Copy littered with capital letters “in weird places … are a turnoff for a lot of readers and really will make your press release underperform,” Skerik says.

4. Recognize that content recirculates.

Ever puzzle why a friend on Facebook posted that same damned cat video you saw a year ago? That’s because content now is available to people on their own time frame, enabling them to recirculate it, Skerik says.

What’s old hat to you is new and interesting to the person who Googled it five minutes ago. Treat your press releases as part of your permanent content archive.

5. Always include something tweetable in your pitches.

Fans, bloggers, and even journalists can be willing to your press releases—but not if you make them work at it. Always include something they can tweet or share. Make it easy for them.

“They just hate it when you send a text-only pitch and attach a press release, and that’s it,” Skerik says.

6. How about issuing a press release in tweets?

In September, @AmazonKindle issued a press release in a series of 14 tweets. This allowed followers to retweet the parts that most interested them, such as the music or extended battery life, Skerik says.

She adds that a tweet about music might not have elicited a reaction from her, but because she provides tech support for an out-of-town parent, the tweet about a new “mayday button” for such support caught her eye.

7. Feed your influencers.

These hungry critters require regular doses of information to survive. They thrive on attention, and multimedia content is their favorite snack food. Exclusives make them purr.

“Give them the star treatment-give them the media treatment-and you will win an enthusiast for life,” Skerik says.

8. Interaction matters.

The Google algorithm has moved beyond merely scanning pages for words, Skerik says. Google now places a high value on people interacting with your content, and this can include old press releases.

Do people like the content? Do they link to it? Are they interacting with it? Do they continue to share it over time? That’s how you gain visibility in searches.

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/15630.aspx

5 PR and social media trends for 2014

By Jessica Lawlor | Posted: November 26, 2013

 

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Want a glimpse into the future of what’s hot in PR, marketing, and social media for 2014? I’ll let you in on a little secret: The future is already here, and brands must get on board now.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of attending two fantastic conferences that left me feeling inspired, engaged, and ready to take action. First, I attended the Public Relations Society of America International Conference in Philadelphia. Then I traveled to Huntsville, Ala., for the Social Media Tourism Symposium (#SoMeT13US).

At these conferences, I heard from big-name speakers including Brian Solis, Jay Baer, and Mack Collier, along with PR and social media professionals down in the trenches at agencies and tourism offices.

A few major themes emerged from both conferences. Here’s what you must know about the top five PR and social media trends for 2014:

1. Let your brand’s superfans help do your marketing/selling for you. Who better to promote your product/service/destination than the people who are already head over heels in love with it? A brand’s superfans — the people who talk about them online, advocate for their products, and spread the word however they can — are a powerful marketing and selling tool.

As Mack Collier, the founder of #BlogChat and author of “Think Like A Rockstar,” said in his Social Media Tourism Symposium keynote, “You’re marketing to the wrong people…the real money is in connecting with your biggest fans. Your fans will go out and acquire new customers for you.”

Collier encouraged the brands at the conference to love those fans right back. Connecting with your superfans, giving them the tools to best help you, and treating them like gold go a long way.

There are a few brands I am completely loyal to that I write about often on my blog. (Dunkin’ Donuts, Temple University, and FatCow immediately come to mind.) I genuinely love all three of these brands and am happy to spread the word about them on my blog and social media accounts because I love their products, am a fan of their online and offline strategy, and appreciate the ways they connect with me as a consumer.

2. Give up control of your brand. Mack Collier went on to explain that brands must give up control to get control. Kind of scary, right? As communication professionals, our job is to protect the brands we represent, so the idea of giving up control can make a marketer feel a little uneasy.

It’s an important concept and one we must accept and embrace if we want our brands and companies to succeed. A trending topic at both conferences was the idea that your fans and community own your brand just as much as you do.

Fans now have the ability to create their own content (videos, tweets, posts, etc.) about your brand. The key here is to really take a hard look at your strategy for working with your brand’s superfans (see point No. 1 above). If you create content geared specifically toward those fans (key word: fans, not customers) and give them the tools to promote you, they will do it in a way that reflects on your brand positively. Remember, it’s all about trust and giving up a little bit of control.

Coincidentally, Mack wrote a post about this very topic after attending the Social Media Tourism Symposium, so head over to his blog to learn more about this idea.

3. Think about content more strategically, and plan for the long term. After attending a session on how content is developed, curated, and promoted at #SoMeT13US, I was inspired by two tourism organizations that have an incredible content strategy. Presenters from Travel Oregonand Miles, on behalf of the Louisiana Office of Tourism, showcased their incredibly organized content calendars, all the way from big themes for the year down to the nitty-gritty daily Facebook posts and tweets.

What I took away from this session was the idea that in order to make the most impact, we must be more strategic and think ahead for the long term. We must have a content plan. But more than having a plan for what content we want our brand to share, we must have a plan for which platforms the content will be posted and shared on. One of the presenters, Theresa Overby, shared her smart “rule of three”: If you create a piece of content, you must use it on at least three different platforms/channels.

In terms of how to create all that content especially if your team is not big enough to be churn out tons of original content on a daily basis? The presenters suggested finding a balance between original and curated content. Again, we go back to No. 1 and No. 2 above about using those superfans or brand ambassadors and allowing them to create content for your brand.

4. We have to be smarter about using data. There’s a running joke among PR pros that we got into communication because we’re bad at math. In general, many of us are fonder of words than of numbers — but that’s changing.

A major theme at the PRSA Conference this year was that as PR pros, we must learn to love numbers and understand how and why using data can be an extremely powerful tool. As my friend, author of The Future Buzz and Googler Adam Singer said during the session, “Data is sexy…because data equals more money.”

Numbers can help tell a story when working with the media, and numbers can justify a larger budget and more staff/resources at an organization. Instead of shying away from analytics, statistics, and numbers, we must insert ourselves into those conversations and gain access to the tools to help us better understand the data driving the success of our organizations.

5. Just be useful. This tip is simple and timeless. In boosting our brands, we must just be useful to our customers and fans.

Jay Baer delivered the opening keynote at #SoMeT13US and explained the concept behind his book YoutilityHe said, “Youtility is marketing so useful, people would pay for it.” He gave an awesome example of Youtility by showing us his Facebook newsfeed.

As he scrolled, he showed the audience a message from a company, followed by a status update from a friend, followed by another company, then an update from his wife, another friend, and another company. His point here was that everything is blended now. Messages from brands we love are mixed in with messages from our family and friends.

If you’re useful and provide information that your customers are looking for, they will respect you and, ideally, purchase from you. He urged marketers to use their online tools to provide utility first and to promote themselves second.

 

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/15667.aspx#

Not a bad way to start a Friday…Starbucks and a webinar with Guy Kawasaki!

 

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Introducing the 2013 Annual Phoenician Awards debuting on October 2nd at the Arizona Historical Society Museum. This magical event will benefit the Banner Health Foundation/ Cardon Children’s Medical Center. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this amazing event! Check out more info on our blog!  http://bit.ly/14gjXWo

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10 candy hearts with your favorite jargon

By | Posted: February 15, 2013

Remember those candy hearts you handed out to your classmates on Valentine’s Day—the ones with playful sayings such as “Be Mine” and “Let’s Kiss”?

It was an early lesson in flirting. Too bad the hearts were too saccharine to enjoy.

Now that you’re all grown up and in the working world, you need a new kind of candy heart—a treat you can give to the person in your life who adores jargon.

You need jargon candy hearts.

 

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http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/13848.aspx

 

12 things to expect from a PR firm

By Beth Monaghan | Posted: January 25, 2013

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How should I choose a PR firm?

Each time someone asks me this, dozens of answers flutter to the forefront of my mind, but I always choose two fairly tangible criteria: fit and experience.

On the surface, it can be easy for all agencies to sound similar, which makes fit and experience crucial. You need an agency that understands your audience and your market, and the reporters you need to reach. Fit is equally important. You’ll be working closely with the PR agency every single day (and many evenings), so you’ll need to be able to work well with the assigned account team.

However, fit and experience alone will not make your agency successful on your behalf. Here are some important qualities you should expect form an agency that is committed to your success. You need an agency that:

1. Owns the process. You want an agency that will never say, “Well, we sent you the guidelines for the Forbes contributed article three months ago and never heard back.” Your agency should be a professional nagger—they should never let you be the reason for a missed deadline.

2. Pushes back. You are hiring a PR firm for its expertise, so find one that provides firm recommendations. If your account team is constantly nodding their heads and yessing you, there is a problem. The success of your PR program requires a team leader who can adamantly say no in the face of tough scrutiny when something just won’t work.

3. Knows when to give in. There are times when other company goals, such as sales campaigns, take priority over PR (for example, when a sales team is under the gun to meet quarterly goals and needs to push out a direct email campaign in advance of the press release). Your PR firm should tell you the optimal plan for getting great media coverage, but should also accept it when PR is not at the top of the list.

4. Makes it happen. Only clients should have the luxury of asking big questions without offering solutions, such as, “How can we maximize our attendance at an upcoming trade show?” Good PR firms know that the right response is a list of viable options, not more questions.

5. Surprises you with unexpected and creative ideas. Your PR firm should march to the beat of the PR plan, but they should also bring you unexpected and creative ideas. This demonstrates that they are paying active attention. Only intellectually hungry people will tie the right pieces together to make you relevant in a way that matters to the press.

6. Owns mistakes. If your agency needs to be right all of the time, it’s a problem. You need an agency that abides by the rules of crisis PR (even when the crisis is a very small one): tell it all, truthfully, and tell it now. This takes confidence and humility, but it is the sign of a great communicator.

7. Hustles. Look for an agency that is pushing you, not the other way around.

8. Writes well. Content marketing has changed PR forever. Adequate press release writing skills are no longer enough. You need an agency that can sift through mountains of information, zero in on the interesting angle, and ghost author an article for your spokesperson. Ask for samples, and look at the agency’s blog.

9. Listens intently. PR people are renowned great talkers. We need to be. However, we need to know how to listen, too. You need a PR agency full of the kind of analytical and open minds that can scan the conversation for points of interest, drive the discussion toward them and relate them to your broader industry.

10. Empathizes. You need a PR agency team that can imagine what it’s like to be you. What pressures do you face internally, from your board, from competitors, others? Is PR central to your role or tangential? Coincidentally, this skill also makes PR people great at media relations—we must imagine what it’s like to be each reporter if we have a prayer of selling a story.

11. Navigates options and contingencies like an attorney. There are many decisions we must make along the winding route between the pitch and the placement. You need an agency that understands the media landscape—which outlets (and journalists) compete, which reporters require exclusives, which ones care about embargoes, and which angles will compel coverage.

Sifting through these and responding appropriately when an embargo is broken or an exclusive falls through tests the skills of the best PR professionals, so make sure you have a team that can bend gracefully when a critical relationship is at stake, and hold firm when your company goals require it.

12. Thick skin. PR people sit in the middle of two constituents whose goals are not always aligned: the media and our clients. Finding the common ground that creates successful outcomes for both requires an ability to handle discord well.

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/13658.aspx

Journalists identify the worst PR jargon

By Gini Dietrich | Posted: January 17, 2013

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My colleagues and I used to write down the dumb corporate language we’d hear, putting the words and phrases on a six-foot whiteboard in the office kitchen.

In little time, terms such as “at the end of the day,” “with all due respect,” “frankly,” and “win win” became the top culprits.

In fact, we filled up that whiteboard and added big sheets of poster paper on either side to keep the game going.

MBAs and wannabe executives were often the ones uttering these mind-numbing words, but they’re not the only professionals who speak this language.

According to a report by twelve thirty eight, PR professionals are the worst at using buzzwords that have no real meaning. Each year, the firm surveys 500 journalists to find out which buzzwords, jargon, and terms PR pros use when working with them.

The survey taps British reporters and editors from media outlets such as the BBC, The Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, and more.

The results of the survey revealed what twelve thirty eight calls the “hipsterization” of PR terminology, exemplified by the rise of words such as “awesome” and “super excited.” I have a journalist friend who shares this feeling; she’s fed up with “amazing” (which, of course, makes me use it every other word when I email her).

Journalists in the U.K. also bemoaned the influx of American terminology, including “circle back” or “reach out.”

Twelve thirty eight compiled this list of the top 20 buzzwords identified in the survey. The words and phrases in parenthesis are an attempt to define the meaning.

1. Issues (problems)
2. Dynamic (likely not to be)
3. Paradigm (a “silk purse” word)
4. Elite (you wouldn’t normally get to attend)
5. Hotly anticipated (never heard of it)
6. End-user (customer)
7. Influencer (a person who probably doesn’t have influence)
8. Evangelist (a tendency to tweet with loads of hashtags)
9. Deliverables (tasks)
10. Icon/iconic (use before 01.01.01 or never)
11. Rocketed (made modest progress)
12. “An astonishing x per cent” (it rarely is astonishing)
13. Marquee event/marquee client (probably “very local”)
14. Going forward (in the future)
15. Ongoing (a bit behind schedule)
16. Optimized (changed by consultants then changed back)
17. Horizontal, vertical, etc. (two words in lieu of a strategy)
18. Phygital (easy to press or swipe, we guess)
19. SoLoMo (no idea)
20. Well-positioned (hopeful but a bit scared)

And one of my very favorites: I loathe it when a business is described as “providing solutions.” We see this time and again and it tells us nothing.

4 myths about PR agencies spreading across college campuses

By Ryan McShane | Posted: January 15, 2013

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I’ve had many opportunities recently to work with members of the Public Relations Students Society of America nationwide as part of my industry service.

During mentor sessions, students often describe their job-hunting progress and feelings toward different areas of public relations. It is evident that many myths are still looming across campuses, and I’m here to teach from my experience.

MYTH: An agency is always the best career starter 

I have several arguments why most students should start their careers with an agency. Agencies help young professionals to discover their talents, broaden their knowledge, and develop relationships across the industry.

That said, several of my friends and colleagues have started their careers in-house and have achieved great success in doing so. Ultimately, agency public relations should be on your radar, but evaluate each job opportunity independently to find the right fit for you and your growth.

MYTH: Any agency will do 

Again, I’ll concede that having agency experience on your résumé will help you gain future employment. As an internship director, it’s comforting to find candidates with prior agency internships under their belts, because it shows these folks likely have experienced (and survived) the fast-paced environment that faced them.

Pace aside, many agencies do not observe ethics and best practices, and some of those flaws may follow you in the form of bad habits or a “what not to do” case study. Don’t be that case study.

MYTH: Agencies are short-term jobs 

This is a myth that I often hear when working with students and young professionals. It’s true that agency turnover is generally more volatile than in-house. Because of some of the things I mentioned above, agency practitioners often find opportunities to specialize in particular fields of interest.

However, many practitioners are cut out for a long-term career in agency public relations. Senior management often rewards this loyalty, as it sends a positive message to clients and the rest of the staff. A long-term agency path also enables you to maintain the fast-paced environment and diversified workload that many practitioners need to remain professionally hungry.

MYTH: Serving multiple clients will broaden my skills 

Benefits of working on multiple client accounts include learning different sectors and honing time management skills. Conversely, young professionals who are staffed across too many accounts are unable to completely immerse themselves into their clients’ businesses and needs.

In addition, working with too many clients will likely limit growth opportunities. Imagine being staffed across four to five clients. After monitoring for coverage, clipping placements, and building media lists, you’d likely need to repeat the same process for your next client to keep up with the workload.

Many agencies lose great young talent, because they limited their professional development. However, other agencies recognize the importance of challenging their staff on a daily basis—limiting their accounts plays a big part of that vision.

 

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/13568.aspx

 

6 PR and social media predictions for 2013

By Sandra Fathi | Posted: January 2, 2013

 

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Although 2012 was filled with exciting PR and social media developments, including London’s 2012 Olympic extravaganza, Prince Harry’s Las Vegas scandal, and a down-to-the-wire race for the U.S. presidency, the coming year is sure to see even further transformations of the media landscape.1. LinkedIn is the new Facebook. More brands will use LinkedIn to monitor conversations and connect with customers and influencers. New and enhanced features on the site, such as its “endorse” capability (which employs the one-click validation of a Facebook “like”) and new profileand company page designs are encouraging users to spend more time building their personal brands with LinkedIn’s tools. Companies, particularly in the B2B world, will increasingly recognize its marketing potential. Also, as adoption and activity on LinkedIn surge, journalists will spend more time using the platform for research, identifying sources and breaking stories.

2. Governments (and war) go social. The 2012 election generated record-breaking activity onTwitter, and more recently, the Israel Defense Force and Hamas military used the platform to communicate to international government officials and the public about the violent Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As citizens in the U.S. and around the world demand increased transparency from governments, officials at every level from local to national will turn increasingly to social media to stay connected with their constituents. Social media will see an increase of political conversations in 2013, driving its adoption as a news source for citizens, traditional media, and the government.

3. The reputable journalist is revived. The rise of blogging and social media has increased the volume of online news and the speed at which it’s available, often at the expense of responsible reporting. Misinformation and rumors can spread quickly and trigger considerable backlash, especially when a news organization compromises accuracy in the name of speed (as evidenced by CNN and Fox News’s memorable misreporting of the Supreme Court ruling on health care reform). The citizen journalist’s 15 minutes of fame are running out and information-overloaded consumers will demand a higher standard of reporting in 2013.

4. PR goes mobile. PR practitioners have learned to draft compelling email pitch subject lines and deliver a message in 140 characters. The next step will be crafting mobile-friendly content as millions of consumers (and journalists) reach for their phones as their primary news source. The Daily taught us that it’s not enough to format a publication with a mobile device in mind; rather, the key will be developing content that effectively reaches the right audience at the right time. Delivery is king—but brevity is still queen.

5. Pictures tell the story. The rise of infographics, photo sharing, and visual storytelling will push PR pros and their clients to deploy messages visually in order to compete in a crowded content market. All Things D reported that in August, smartphone users spent more time on Instagram than on Twitter for the first time since Instagram launched in 2010. This is indicative of a broader shift toward visual content in the digital space. As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words”; more important, it might also be worth your customer’s attention.

6. PR wins the social media battle. The debate over which corporate discipline “owns” social media is practically as old as social media itself; PR, marketing, branding, advertising, and customer service (just to name a few) all have skin in the game. As more businesses recognize the opportunities (and threats) that social media present to their corporate reputation, and the demand from stakeholders for direct engagement, they are reaching out to PR agencies and practitioners for support. PR pros, who have long been responsible for managing the dialogue between an organization and the public, will emerge as trendsetters in the social space by providing valuable communications counsel and achieving results that directly impact clients’ bottom lines.

Yes, free PR.  It is an oxymoron in a way, because if you are not paying someone to spearhead PR efforts for you, you are spending time (which equals money) to do PR activities yourself.  However it is correct in the sense that the field of PR does refer to activities that do not include paid media, that is, advertising.

Most PR practitioners would probably bristle at something promising Free PR, but the book I just published does just that.  What I mean is that “121 Ways to Build Buzz and Make Big Bucks” (please see dedicated page on this blog for details) takes the best ideas from big brands and boils them down to ideas that are essentially no cost or low cost to implement.

That is the great thing about the world we live in today.  We have so much available to us that’s essentially free.  It’s like the democratization of marketing, in a sense.  It’s a wonderful time to be an entrepreneur.

Building BUZZ Since 1995