Last week, the Content Marketing Institute hosted a great webinar called Press Releases: The Content Marketer’s Not-So-Hidden Treasure. The session was all about incorporating press releases into an overall content marketing strategy – a tactic we use regularly to generate traffic, engagement and conversions for clients. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, moderated the event, and featured speakers were Michael Pranikoff, Director of Emerging Media for PR Newswire, and Bob Canaway, Director of Marketing for Ektron. Pulizzi polled the webinar participants and found that while nearly half in the audience were using press releases, most were using them in a traditional manner, and nearly 20% were not using press releases at all. Branikoff prefers the term “news release” to press release, stating that the traditional term “press release” implies a limited audience of editors, reporters and wire service personnel. “News release implies that your material will be seen by a wide audience,” said Branikoff. He stated that if your releases are properly optimized for search, you will be more likely to connect with your desired audience, on their terms, on the social platforms they frequent.
Branikoff went on to describe the new marketing funnel, where prospects can jump in at many different stages, rather than following a formal path. He encouraged participants to be strategic in the creation of their news releases, and to design each release with one clear conversion opportunity in mind. For example, if the release is intended to get people to sign up for a webinar, make the act of registering for the event your one and only intended action. As you are writing your release, know exactly what you want the reader to do after reading. Do you want them to contribute to the conversation? To share your content? The news release starts the conversation with “proactive messaging” – social media keeps the conversation going; the audience finds the content and takes your desired action. Pulizzi and Branikoff offered lots of valuable writing tips, but one of the best and easiest to put to immediate use is the idea of “tweetable headlines”. A news release headline should be 120 characters or fewer; by focusing your attention on the first 65 characters, and using your most important keywords and phrases first, you effectively optimize your press release title to be found in its entirety in search results. The presenters also advised that releases be easy to read, easy to use and easy to share. Short paragraphs and bulleted lists translate to “info snacks” for the reader – easily digestible pieces of information. Data driven content – especially for B2B – is especially effective in generating interest in your release, and adding media to releases such as images and video dramatically increases online views according to PR Newswire’s web analytics. Pulizzi and Branikoff encouraged the audience to think differently about press releases, and to use them as another effective channel to reach their intended audience by being a “storyteller” for their particular industry. Press releases can effectively drive traffic and engagement with your desired audience. The webinar made a strong case for adding this tactic to your content marketing toolkit, and even seasoned marketers will gain new and valuable information from the speakers’ take on the press release.