Communications professionals know the name Ivy Lee, considered the father of modern public relations. Few people appreciate that he also invented—and wrote—the first press release. That was a hundred years ago (1906). It traveled by regular mail and the common name “press release” probably came later.
Many things about this time-honored publicity channel are still the same. Other stuff has changed, including what we call it. “A press release, news release, media release, press statement or video release,” according to Wikipedia, “is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy.”
Everyone understands that “press release” is a century-old throwback term from when the news media of the time used giant printing presses. The mechanics of distribution and publication have evolved with the digital age. And being shareable, discoverable and search-friendly are now vital to getting mileage for your message. Here are some of the ways to get attention and get found:
Work your list; work it hard. Computer hardware and software enable an unprecedented ability to target recipients. Gone are the days of one-release-fits-all. Know who likes and wants what. Whenever possible, personalize messages to the individual, topic/categories and/or style considerations.
Fit the small screen first. Mobile is first with roughly 50 percent email messages viewed initially on a mobile device. Plan subject line, headline and text to fit the limited real estate.
Expand your master distribution list. Think selective and personalized circulation. In addition to the primary news media (newspaper, radio, TV), and using a distribution service, send relevant PR material to:
Identify and use search traffic keywords. Embrace the language—words, phrases, jargon—of the audience and the subject matter. Without “stuffing,” use these key terms in the headline and near the top.
Multimedia means extra mileage. Think text, photos, videos and links in the overall plan. “Press releases that include multimedia elements generate more views,” according to PR Newswire analytics. “Multimedia content is more broadly distributed because each element…can attract its own audience in social networks and on search engines.”
Make it newsworthy, meaningful and interesting—or not at all. If you don’t have strong material, don’t send a bad release. Sending poor or misplaced material erodes your credibility.
You live or die by the headline and first 12 words. If the initial snippet doesn’t immediately sell the package, you release will hit the trash in a nanosecond. Grab attention, get to the point and put the benefit up front.
Focus on facts. Search engines, editors and readers want accurate, timely and authoritative information. Keep it interesting and include numbers, quotes and citations.
Surprisingly, many press releases manage to forget the contact information. For each and every distribution confirm that the current, correct and accurate info is prominently included.