Former financial journalist turned public relations pro Ivy Lee wrote what’s considered the first successful press release in 1906. The Pennsylvania Railroad, a client of Lee’s public relations agency, knew reporters would be covering a train wreck that happened near Gap, Pennsylvania. Instead of suppressing the facts, Lee suggested inviting reporters to the scene and wrote up a story to give to them. His efforts garnered positive press for the railroad in spite of the accident.
Lee couldn’t have imagined how communications transformed as a result of advances in technology including new distribution methods and the influence of multimedia. Many say Lee’s concept has little use in today’s online marketing age with social media, blogs, and other tools that marketers use. Even with these advances, it isn’t time yet to sing a eulogy for the trusted press release. It needs to change, but it’s still a vital tool that should be in businesses’ communications toolbox.
The Need to Reach Journalists Still Exists – and Press Releases Do That
Lee only had to reach out to newspapers. Imagine what he’d think if he saw today’s media landscape. Bloggers and online news services now share attention with newspapers, magazines, and TV news stations. What doesn’t change is their hunger for news to circulate. Press releases deliver that news, or at least whets their appetites for what else you have to tell them.
Consider these statistics. Out of more than 300 North American journalists who took part in the 2014 Business Wire Media Survey, nearly 90 percent said they had used a press release within the last week. Almost 80 percent responded that they turn to a company’s online newsroom when researching an organization. PR Newswire for Journalists, a private news site that credentialed media and bloggers use, states that it logs more than 30,000 active users on average per month.
People Listen to Industry Experts – And a Press Release Brands You as One
The market is crowded and it’s tough to stand out. One way to do so is to be the go-to expert. Journalists go to experts to get quotes. People want to know what experts think. Remember branding is part perception. It’s about appearing to be a leader in your industry.
Press releases make you look important. They make you appear as though you are the expert in your industry. Press releases build trust and credibility in your field and give you the chance to brand yourself as an authority about topics crucial to your business. You can use a press release to give your take on trends in your industry or response to events in the news. It brands you as the “person in the know.”
You Need to Get the Story Right – And Press Releases Do That
A press release is a cost-effective way to tell your story. Press releases and news stories become a sort of official record of your company’s successes. A press release enables you to push out the facts and tell your story before someone else tells it. Remember you’re the authority in your industry. You want to be the source. A news release conveys your company’s point of view and what you consider the facts in an unedited, clear and credible fashion. If a journalist accepts your press release as a story pitch and writes a story, your press release will act as the basis for the news story and provide the facts.
A press release is most effective when it is “newsy.” Is your company launching a new product or service, or did you have a change in management? Do you have a unique perspective on a particular issue or subject in the news? Think along the lines of “newsy” when deciding when to release a press release. You want your press release to be timely and unique.
Your Website Needs Attention – And a Press Release Helps
Google’s search engine algorithms and press releases have had their ups and downs when it comes to their relationship over the past few years. You do not want to count on press releases for SEO value. However, especially when used in combination with a broader marketing strategy, they can still draw attention to your company.
Press releases give you indirect SEO value including visibility and brand name recognition as well as referral traffic. A unique press release may be picked up by blogs and other websites, drawing attention back to your own. Include a call to action link that leads readers back to your website. Press releases may not make your website rate higher in Google rankings, but when effectively used they can draw attention to your other marketing tools that can.
Keep the Press Release in Your Communications Toolbox
Sending out a press release was enough for Ivy Lee to accomplish what he set out to do. A press release is barely enough today to make up your entire marketing strategy, but it still plays a part. Not only meant to be a tool to reach journalists. You also want to send it to bloggers, attach it to your website and promote it via social media. The strategy’s changed as far as how to send out press releases, but when you have something newsworthy consider continuing the tradition that Lee launched more than a century ago.