Article Summary:PR pros must alter their news release writing style to capitalize on trends in social media.
The impact of social media on public relations is profound. Some Internet enthusiasts even claim that the frenzy of "user-powered content" sites, such as Digg.com and Del.icio.us.com, and applications will cause traditional news organizations to become defunct. As a precursor, some in the digirati claim the traditional press release is useless and call for its demise.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of the press release are greatly exaggerated.
To put it in context, technology is evolutionary -- and so is communications. Press releases aren't useless but companies do have to evolve how they use them to capitalize on trends in social media and remain relevant in the innovation economy.
Before the Internet, press releases were written quite obviously, for the press. Journalists would access your press releases via exclusive distribution into their news rooms, gather their data and write articles for their readers.
Today, readers are viewing press releases online at the same time journalists are receiving them. Although the term "press release" is acceptable, it's far more accurate to refer to these communications as news releases and recognize the enormous power they hold.
A news release is a direct dialogue with the stakeholders that matter most to your company, including your boards of directors, investors, customers, sales channels, employees, vendors and, of course, the media. It is an unfiltered way of getting your news out. You even can target social media sites through specialty news wires and podcasting distribution.
However, there are ways to make your news release more relevant for today's social media.
Here are five ways to get the most out of your news releases:
1. Write for Google
Press releases, as well as articles, appear in Google News as well as other Internet sites and databases, which means you must pepper your news release with key search terms to help your target audiences find you.
2. Write like a journalist
Abandon all hype in your news release and practice journalistic-style news writing. Nestle your most-important news and answer the five W's (Who? What? When? Where? and Why? and occasionally How?) within the first three paragraphs of your announcement. This structure is called the "inverted pyramid."
3. Package your story
The reality is that most journalists are over-worked, under-paid and expected to accomplish more with less -- just like you. Help them cover your story by packaging it. In addition to a crisply written news release, give them all of the information they need to write a balanced story. Ideas include:
- A page of customer quotations and contact information
- Industry statistics and contact information for industry analysts
- Charts and graphs
- Competitive information
- Data sheets, product briefs and other technical information
- Financial information and contact information for financial analysts and/or investors
4. A picture is worth...
Another way to package your story and give it life is to issue news releases with photos over a wire service. Think of creative ways to spotlight products or executives.
5. Pitch selective
Not every news release you write and issue will be worth pitching to business writers and trade editors. Remember, you're issuing news releases to communicate corporate updates to a variety of audiences -- but only the most newsworthy of these announcements should be pitched to your target media. Before pitching the media, clean up your media lists and map your media relations strategy.
Cara Good is the co-founder and president of WunderMarx Inc., a fast-growing international public relations, marketing and branding firm representing some of the world's most innovative technologies and ideas. She has been quoted and featured in numerous articles on entrepreneurialism, public relations and marketing, and speaks frequently on these topics. For more information visit www.wundermarx.com