Press Release 2.0: How Your News Release Should Evolve For Digital Media.

The first press release was written in 1906 to announce something newsworthy. Over the years PR professionals developed a standard format to obtain earned media publication in newspaper, magazine, radio and TV news. Like any industry the rise of digital and social media has changed best practices in this discipline. In this article you will learn the new standards and best practices for digital and social media optimized press releases.

The traditional press release was mailed, faxed or emailed to editors and journalists consisting of:

  1. A Headline to grab attention of journalists and summarize the news.
  2. A Dateline for the release date and originating city.
  3. An Introduction Paragraph that provided quick answers to who, what, when, where and why.
  4. The Body with further explanation, details, background, and statistics.
  5. A Boilerplate with short about copy on the organization or company.
  6. The Close was a symbol that meant the release ended.
  7. Media Contact Information included the name, phone, email and address for the PR or media relations person.

Today’s press releases must include more to be effective. Digital assets, quality links, headlines, and calls to action should all be designed for easy sharing on social networks and be optimized for online search. The main difference in a new digital or social media release is that it doesn’t necessarily mimic a complete news story like previous traditional releases. Instead it provides more components or raw ingredients to put together a story in any format or to be shared on various social networks.

In 2006, Shift Communications developed what they call the Social Media Press Release with the template seen below. It includes a series of bullets with quotes from senior executives and multimedia elements such as logos, photos, PDFs of key materials, links to podcasts, and an annual report or PowerPoint.

This template is still relevant, but Shift suggests some updated features including:

  1. Sharing Buttons for various social channels at the top of the page right under the headline
  2. Multimedia that now emphasizes using short video.
  3. Varying Viewpoints from other perspectives that make it more social.
  4. A Link to an Official Press Release because some prefer the facts in one easy-to-read place for new aggregators to pick up easily.
  5. Twitter Conversations curated to showcase what people are saying about the news on Twitter.

When writing IR Magazine suggests that …  new media press releases should be tailored to various audiences like wire services and social media contacts. Click To Tweet Therefore, communicating with bloggers is not the same as communicating with traditional media. Most bloggers who think you are pushing biased information will turn against you. The first step is to know the blogger you are targeting. Read their blog, get a sense of what they care about and start a conversation. Establish a relationship first and start with an interesting news item that may not directly relate to your company, then ensure the release links back to your organization’s main website as long as your content is good. Don’t let a person excited about your press release be disappointed by your site.

Press releases now need to be optimized for SEO. Write your release around three keywords or phrases that are important to key audiences. Keywords should be included in the headline and subheads at the top and in the body of the release. Sprinkle keywords throughout the release and add hyperlinks to help people find related content and provide support. SEO optimized releases help you get ranked in news search and editors may contact you solely based on your press release being properly optimized and relevant.

Catherine Spicer of PR Newswire focuses on what is not needed. She argues that it is also time to leave behind some conventions of the traditional news release. Writing “For Immediate Release” was intended to tell journalists when the story could be published, but now when a press release goes live online, it’s assumed that it is ready for immediate use. You may also want to stop using “Embargoed until XX:XX.” With so many news sites competing to break the stories first these days, embargoes are not always honored. Closes with a “###” are outdated as well. Readers today will more likely think the pound sign is a hashtag for tweets. The press release dateline now should always include a year. Thanks to website archives and search engines, press releases are now discoverable for an indefinite amount of time.

Victoria Harres also of PR Newswire suggests:

  1. New releases should focus links on relevant metrics that count such as tracking online reads, social shares, and content popularity.
  2. Releases should be used to publicize other organization content. When something interesting is published on your blog, website or YouTube channel use a release to drive brand exposure, social shares, media pickup, and brand discovery.
  3. Improve SEO by answering questions. Search engines try to deliver results that answer searcher questions. So write press release headlines that highlight the questions the release answers.
  4. Use keywords for SEO, but use language that relates with the target or it won’t get read or shared.
  5. Remember that the press release today reaches much more than the press. Press release strategy should strive to reach editors and journalists, but also influencers, investors, employees and consumers.

What new press release standards and features are you practicing for digital and social media?

Longer Content Performs Better Despite Shorter Attention Spans.

This time of year everyone is focused on the NCAA Basketball tournament as we all try to pick the winners and losers of the brackets. But those of us who work in social media are always trying to pick the winners and losers of our content. With more and more investment in social media comes greater expectation of ROI and still only half of corporate executives are convinced of social media’s value.

What is the Magic Formula to Become a Social Media Champion?

This is where the madness comes in – What we have been told may not actually be true. The average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just 8 seconds by 2013 – that is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish! Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” explains this with research that says the Internet has actually changed the physical structure of our brains reducing our ability to focus.

So when digital marketing experts tell us to create shorter content – around 200 words – this makes a lot of sense. Short Attention Span = Short Content. Yet this strategy is not necessarily the best. You have to go deeper and look at other factors. If your goal is to have people read all your words then this many be true, but if you value other goals like shares and views, you should give longer content more consideration.

Why Add Words that People Won’t Read?

  1. Increased shares
  2. Added link backs
  3. More search views

Apparently it doesn’t really matter if people read all of your copy, if you care about getting more people to see it. Madness. Quick Sprout confirms this. They performed an analysis on their blog and found that posts with more than 1,500 words received 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than articles with fewer than 1,500 words. They also cite a popular online journal that performed a similar analysis and found the results reported in the chart below.

Social Media Marketing
Longer copy gets more social media shares across networks. Via Quick Sprout at http://bit.ly/1ggIPic

In addition to more social shares, Moz research has found that longer content generates more link backs and more link backs help with SEO (search engine optimization). The link backs further improve search results, which increases views along with the social shares.

Finally, longer content also improves organic search. According to serpIQ, the average content length for Web pages that rank in the top 10 results on Google is at least 2,000 words. The higher the ranking, the more words – more people are choosing and liking longer content.

Social Media Marketing
Top 10 Google search results with page word length. Via Quick Sprout at http://bit.ly/1bQL13C

Longer Means More Traffic, but Don’t Expect Them to Read Most of It.

Despite all this, positive research for longer content, other statistics from Neilson Norman Group tell us that people only read 20%-30% of that content. They also found that 79% of people scan pages they come across and only 16% read word-by-word. Here it seems that our short attention spans win out. On a 1,500 word post that means most people are only reading 300 of those words.

We are attracted to longer copy, but our goldfish brains don’t allow us to read all the words. We also like to share longer copy to perhaps try and make people think we have read the entire article and prove we can sill focus. Our attention spans are shorter, but we don’t want other people to know it! Madness.

This reminds me of when I worked on the advertising account for an ice cream brand. What we discovered was that in the ice cream business customers are always attracted to the new flavors, but at the end of the day most sales came from plain old chocolate and vanilla. New flavors attract attention, but most people buy chocolate and vanilla anyway. In a similar strategy, write longer content to attract attention even if your reader only consumes one fifth of it anyway.

Extra words are important even if people don't read them Click To Tweet Longer content makes the article look more substantial to attract attention and make it worthy of being shared. Longer content also allows more room for keywords and search optimization. It doesn’t matter if most people won’t read all of it. Madness? Perhaps, but how many upsets will happen in the basketball tournament this year? One thing we can learn from the NCAA championship is that you must always plan for the unexpected.

What have you found in your experience? Have you tried longer content?