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January 26, 2013

Anna Ruth Williams



Over the past couple years, the PR industry has swirled with murmurs that [gasp] the press release is dying. That’s right, some naysayers have written obituaries for the more than 100-year-old media announcement, which was invented by Ivy Lee in 1906 on behalf of his client, the Pennsylvania Railroad. In fact, in 2013 Coca-Cola’s PR chief made gigantic industry waves when he said the brand would completely eliminate press releases by 2015 (note: It’s January 2015 and the beverage company has already issued two press releases this year).

While the public relations industry is going through a shift, it certainly doesn’t spell the demise of the press release. Here’s why:

  • The press release is still the most formal and vivid way to track your company’s history. Think of a press release as a page in a scrapbook. As you, your investors, customers and other stakeholders look back at your company’s brand story – they will be looking at press releases, which track each milestone and growth metric.

  • Media will always desire a concise announcement that tells a story and also includes key data points, names, dates, etc. If you tell a reporter that your company just raised $5 million in capital, the first thing he/she will say is “please send me a press release.” Why? Because the press release is considered an official corporate document that’s carefully crafted and vetted to contain trusted facts and information. It’s still the staple and standard for making news.

Okay, so now that I ended the debate on why the press release is alive and well. Let’s discuss how it’s changing to meet the needs of today’s increasingly digital and integrated communications landscape.

1. Press releases are good for SEO

While Google constantly changes its top-secret algorithm, PR Newswire reminds us that there’s one thing that’s not likely to change anytime soon – “great content written with a specific audience in mind is good SEO and will increase your chances of being found.” And while you shouldn’t pack your press release full of direct links – a few good URLs (about one per 100 words) and solid keywords in a wire release will bode well for your SEO strategy.

2. Images and videos are your friend

From typewriters to fax machines to slick wire distribution services – press releases have come a long way, baby. Today, digital services and email providers allow us to embed photos and videos in press releases, which are proven to boost readership. PR Newswire found that press releases with multimedia have a whopping 5,092% increase in visibility (more).

3. News stories are shrinking

New stories used to be 700 words or so. But due to newsroom layoffs and the rise of mobile and social news consumption, stories are now about 300-500 words (read the Associated Press’ recent guidelines). Since press releases are written for an audience of journalists, we must keep press releases concise and short. While it can be challenging to tell a story and a slew of facts in so few words, it will increase your chances of getting the news picked up, and most importantly shared on social media.

4. Which brings me to my last point – Say hello to brief & catchy headlines.

Media outlets want consumers to click on their articles and stay on their site so they can earn more ad revenue. This can be achieved through catchy, provocative, funny and bold headlines. Say goodbye to stale, boring, corporate headlines and say hello to catchy, short titles that can be tweeted (i.e., keep ‘em less than 100 characters).

At Alloy, we understand integrated communications. It’s what drives our work and makes us tick. Knowing how to optimize press releases for journalists, digital platforms and search engines is just one way we keep clients on the cutting edge. If you’re ready to #makenews, contact us today!