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The Press Release Isn’t Dead… It’s Evolving: 7 Ways to Adjust Your Thinking

November 5, 2009

There has been a lot of discussion as of late regarding the usefulness and overall effectiveness of press releases. “The press release is dead” is not some new catchphrase. For the last several year, the humble press release has taken the stand time and time again, trying to prove it’s worth keeping in the PR tool box. I’m convinced that it is, but with some reevaluation of WHY we’re writing them, and HOW we’re writing them.

I’m not the only one who thinks this. Last week, I interviewed Jason Kintzler, the founder and CEO of Pitch Engine for The Businessmakers Show. He shared his view that “press releases suck,” and let’s be honest, they do. Very few people read them, and very rarely do they garner any press, especially not for small businesses. So let’s stop pretending that’s their sole purpose.

We use similar skill sets to attract people to our websites and to our releases. Press releases are great SEO boosters, and when done right, can tell a great story. Traditional press releases, which are teeming with jargon and PRspeak, do nothing for anyone. Most of the things you write press releases for are not really newsworthy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not worth writing  about.

It’s time to improve the WHY and HOW of press release writing, and here’s how you should start:

1. Explore other tools. Look around for other ways to get out the content you’d usually push in a press release. You don’t have to use traditional wire services. Pitch Engine is a great resource for this. For a minimal fee, you can create a company Newsroom, which aggregates all the releases you write. You can then link to or embed the newsroom in your homepage to create a very comprehensive, good-looking Press page.

2. Learn basic SEO best practices. If you thought your SEM’s job existed in a vacuum, think again. PR pros must have a similar skill set today, or work closely with someone who understands their audience. Because SEO changes so rapidly, check out forums and online tutorials. I also recommend Search Engine Marketing, Inc. by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt. You’ll refer back to it constantly.

3. Get access to a great keyword tool – You’d be surprised how many more people are looking for your product in the plural form than the singular form. Optimize your release for that word instead. Make sure to use it twice throughout the first paragraph of the body, as well as in the title of the release. Google Adwords keyword tool is excellent.

4. Don’t assume you know what your customers are calling your product. Just because internally, you call your product a Gizmo, doesn’t mean that’s what your customers call it. Determine the ways in which people casually speak about your product, because that’s also how they’re searching for it. Search is conversational.

5. Be specific. Stop listing long strings of keywords that COULD relate to your release. Establish who you’re targeting with your information and optimize with those words. Do you have a new product that home builders would want to know about? Talk to a home builder. Ask them the kinds of things they search for. Include keywords that relate to home building instead of “new product launch.”

6. Stop sending your press release to every journalist who’s ever included you in a story. Believe it or not, journalists don’t want to read your press release unless it’s relevant to what they write about (or you’re Apple, announcing a new product). Sending your release to a few who it might be relevant for is much more effective than mass mailing it to your entire list. Unless your news is groundbreaking and of interest to everyone, targeted sends are better.

7. Link back to the site using the name of the site, not “click here”. Google does not recognize “click here” or “go here” nearly as well as it does a link to your site, using the name of your site as the link text.

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