Product Recalls and the Press Release: Crisis Tool and Opportunity

The recent spate of product recalls–from pet food to peanut butter–has me thinking about the role of press releases in the universe of crises. I’m not the only one.

Google noted in its Consumer Packaged Goods blog recently that for the first time in six years, a product recall placed in the #1 and #2 positions in top gaining Google searches.

Noting that “breaking news fuels online searches,” (REALLY?) Google detailed what companies should do during product recalls in the context of online search.

The search giant’s #1 recommendation: Ensure the official information is available by immediately routing searches to the press release and official statements the moment it is available online.”

The press release as foundation document will never go away. Hear that social media types beating the drum on the demise of the press release?

Those sharp enough to leverage that press release not only as media relations tools, but as search engine optimized, direct-to-consumer content pages will weather a recall better than those who don’t bother.

Meanwhile, savvy PR pros like David Muise of Full Spectrum Media seize the opportunity to take the offensive in distinguishing their brands from those tainted. Muise represents Life’s Abundance, an all natural pet food wholesome enough for people to eat.

On April 4, Muise ran a release on Business Wire and EON Enhanced Online News with the headline “Pet Food Recall Has Pet Owners Turning to www.HealthyDogsUSA.com for Safe, Holistic Dog and Cat Food Alternatives.” The story rated third most-viewed release on Business Wire that day and Muise’s NewsTrak access report reflected almost 1,000 views in the first 24 hours.

“My goal was to reach the consumer and let them know they could be educated and that they have options,” said Muise, adding that the press release distro resulted in more than 250 online requests for pet food samples. “The conversion rate on samples is between 65 and 70 percent,” says Muise. Dr. Jane Bicks, Life’s Abundance founder and a holistic veterinarian, was also tapped by scores of journalists as an expert on pet nutrition, which resulted in ancillary positive publicity and web traffic, “even though the press release had no hard news in it,” says Muise.

Recalls are challenging for PR practitioners and press releases will always be a great tool for managing such challenges. One company’s bad news may breed opportunity for competitors, but in a nod to Don Imus, we at Business Wire and EON: Enhanced Online News insist that clients be tactful. We reserve the right to refuse copy that is “blatantly opportunistic” as we do weekly, most recently with releases exploiting the Virginia Tech massacre.

7 Responses to Product Recalls and the Press Release: Crisis Tool and Opportunity

  1. Paul Walker says:

    Hi, Monica. I received your e-mail and just wanted to clarify. Of course people read press releases. I don’t debate that. The point I was really trying to make is that few people read press releases when they show up in search results. Especially, if they are doing research on products or services and trying to figure out what to buy. If they don’t read them that hurts their search rank. There is an exception: As your post points out, the may me more likely to read them if the focus is a crisis situation or “bad news.” Bad news is naturally search engine optimized.

  2. Paul,

    I agree with you when you say, “The point I was really trying to make is that few people read press releases when they show up in search results.”

    My question back to you is, doesn’t that apply to all content? The whole craft of SEO is to optimize your content, in this case press releases, so that they come up relevant in the SERPS. On another note I have seen examples where companies use press releases to manage there reputation in the SERPS pushing negative SERP results down onto deeper pages of the search results.

    David

  3. David Muise says:

    I think people do read news releases when they come up in search results. Though I can’t qualify the statement, I hope that someone in our field is able to deliver some quantifiable results on the matter.

    I can say that in my limited research I have found two things to be true:
    1. That news releases meant to live online and target consumers must be written in that manner. If they are, then they get read and people act. This is evidenced by successes my clients have had in reaching consumers with products or services and being able to track the capture rate of new customers through web analytics tools.
    2. That in recent surveys, Elliance, an SEO marketer, gauges that optimized news releases get read an average of 35,000 times. Also, that in recent reading PR pratitioner and Author of Six Steps to Free Publicity, Marcia Yudkin, details how she first came across the concept of press release optimization, ” The light bulb went off for me when I was searching for very specialized software and came upon a press release for such a product rather than the company’s regular marketing copy at its Web site. Links in the press release led me to the software manufacturer’s Web site.”

    I think of optimized news as a guidepost for consumers, a wake point. It’s not their final destination, but rather a compass helping them get to where they want to go.

  4. Monika says:

    Gentlemen,

    Thank you for the lively discussion.

    I don’t pretend to be objective on the topic of press release-as-marketing tool. Our clients routinely use press releases to generate leads, drive web traffic, promote sales, reinforce branding and yes, satisfy disclosure requirements. Their press releases are seen/read through feeds, content aggregation and search engine results pages (SERPS).

    David Muise’s metaphor of the press release as “a compass” is apt. “Busbench in cyberspace” also comes to mind.

    Soon new metrics for EON Enhanced Online News will be released that should demonstrate “reads.” Stay tuned.

  5. It seems like there is a new product recall everyday. I am especially concerned about all the recalls on children’s toys and household products. Press releases are not the answer. News reports are not the answer. I need a personal file that sends me a timely notice when one of my products has been recalled.

  6. bob smith says:

    Nice read, more info to add to my useless knowledge of search engine ranking lol

  7. Manetta says:

    The day that I decided to really help people get exactly what they want was the day that my business (and imcome) really took off. The more information I gave away for free, the more money people would spend on my products and services. It�s a valuable lesson and one I learned.

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