The art of the smart press release

One of the things that surprises me when dealing with clients is their interest in putting out press releases to announce minor or major corporate news.

As a reporter, I received so many press releases that they became an ineffective and indistinguishable blur.

And with social media making the distribution of news and content easier than ever, press releases seem like anachronism.

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Why issue a formal press release when there are other, more effective ways to spread corporate news?

Nevertheless, many companies insist on doing them because press releases still have stature. At the same, they continue to be regarded as a way to mark corporate accomplishments, regardless of how small they may be.

So for companies that want to go ahead with a press release, there are a few things that I stress.

Like a good story, a press release needs a hook or an angle to capture the attention of a reporter or blogger

Simply stating that company “X” is excited about a new development is not interesting. Instead, corporate news should tie into a larger idea, trend or development. This helps to make corporate news part of a bigger story as opposed to just being about the company.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule such as major acquisitions or large financings.

Unless there is significant news that would be an obvious story to a reporter/blogger, it’s not a good idea to pay to have a press release distributed using a wire service

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In most cases, there isn’t enough of a return on investment to justify the cost.

The better way: Publish the press release on the corporate website

This provides a place that companies can use as a destination from which to distribute it on social media ( Twitter[1], Facebook[2], blogs, etc.).

As well, it meets the objective of showing traction by making the “Press Releases” section of a websute look meaty and vibrant.

Finally, a press release on a website can benefit search engine optimization, which can make a website be easier to find using a search engine such as Google[3].

Create an enhanced online press release on your Web site

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Make it also include high-resolution photos or screen captures, corporate logos and, if possible, a video that can be embedded into other websites or blogs.

In addition to using social media to distribute a press release, it should also be sent to a select group of reporters and bloggers

The e-mail should be personalized using the reporter’s first name, and include a couple of paragraphs that pitch a story and why the reporter would be interested.

The press release should be included as an attachment in the event that a reporter is interested enough to get more details.

Pitching a story rather than pushing the press release could be described as a “soft sell” that tempts the recipient rather than forcing it upon them.

Be realistic about how enthusiastically a press release will be received

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Keep in mind that reporters and bloggers are swamped with press releases and pitches from companies that believe their news warrants a story or blog post.

It is a competitive landscape in which only the best or most interesting stories win, which means being creative, unique and being a good storyteller.

There is still a role for press releases but not in the traditional way because they don’t resonate as well as they used to.

If you are gung-ho about issuing press release, there are different rules of engagement.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting[4], a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh[5], meshmarketing[6] and meshwest[7] conferences.

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