Seven Traits of Highly Effective Press Releases

May 6, 2010

For this edition of SEO Tip Jar I wanted to look at hit releases and see what attributes they tend to have in common.  My methodology was simple and straightforward.  I defined hit releases as those getting the most release reads (or page views) and took the top 10 releases on EON: Enhanced Online News for each full month so far in 2010.  I looked at 40 releases in total.

For each release, I counted the words in the body, the date and time of release, whether the release included a photo, and so on for a total of seven main traits.

The “Average” Hit Release

Across the board, these releases were an average of 642 words, with the longest being nearly 1500 words and the shortest being just over 250 words.  The word counts were quite evenly distributed as well, and there didn’t seem to be any word count exceptionally more likely to hit than another.  In total, 58% of releases were over 500 words.

The most common day of the week to release was Thursday, which was the date of choice for 22.5% of releases.  Tuesday and Wednesday were close behind with 20% of releases each and Monday and Friday were slightly less likely at 17.5%.  Just one lonely hit was released on a Saturday and no hit releases premiered on Sundays.

Moving on to the best time of day (rounding to the nearest hour), 10am and 12pm ET were tied for the most frequent, each with 12.5% of releases.  Additionally, 40% of all the hits were released before noon, 35% between noon and 3pm, and 25% from 4pm onward.  It looks like news consumers tend to be early risers, so get your release out during the workday if you can.

Traits from Top to Bottom

  1. 87% of releases included at least one link in one form or another in the body of the release, with many of the top releases containing quite a few very descriptive links.  If your company happens to be a holdout in the release linking game, I hope this may persuade you to start adding descriptive links to your press releases.
  2. 73% of releases incorporated some special formatting within the body of the release, whether it be bold, italics, underlining or an embedded image.  In today’s xhtml world, special formatting can be an excellent way to emphasize key points of your releases, break your content into distinct sections  and provide cues for ‘skimmers’ to gather meaning as they quickly scan content for relevant information.
  3. 68% of releases had a subheadline.  This stat was the most surprising to me.  The subhead seems to have an unclear role in press release SEO, since it’s not really the headline and not really the body either.  While the robots digesting releases may not pay it much mind, it’s clear that the subhead offers valuable supplementary guidance to readers as they consider whether to continue on reading a release and possibly even share that release.
  4. 58% of releases included the company name in the release headline (Ex. Company X releases XYZ app).  Of course, this also means that 42% didn’t include the company name and still performed quite well with readers.  There is very little real estate available within your headline and if it is more than 22 words you might not make it into Google News.  With this in mind, consider the goal of the release and campaign when making your choice.  If company branding is a chief concern, including the name is probably a good idea.  However, if the focus is more product or service focused, for instance, maybe the company name should take a back seat.
  5. 35% of releases included a photo or video, with the vast majority of those including a photo only.  It’s safe to say that much fewer than 35% of all releases include multimedia, so it’s clearly a good idea to include multimedia in order to help your releases stand out.  Product photos, charts, infographics, company executives, high-resolution logos . . . the list of possibilities is nearly endless.
  6. 23% of releases encouraged social sharing or engagement within the body of the release, typically Facebook or Twitter.  All EON releases already offer social sharing chicklets covering all major social networks, so it’s not absolutely critical to give them additional emphasis within your release.  However, if social engagement is a priority or your release is geared towards “sharability”, why not give readers a bit more of a push?
  7. 5% of releases, just two, had any special characters in the headline.  So perhaps adding special characters in headlines is not a good idea.

Have a burning SEO question? Drop us a comment or talk to Joseph on Twitter @EONpr to get it answered in the next SEO Tip Jar!


Business Wire’s Ibrey Woodall on Mobile Investor Relations

May 5, 2010

Ibrey Woodall

Business Wire’s Director of Client Development, Ibrey Woodall, has an article in today’s Bulldog Reporter IR Alert, “Are You Ready for 3G IR? Investor Relations Should Heed the Momentum of Mobile.” With the explosive growth of the mobile internet, financial and investor information joins the other types of content that needs to be prepared for the 3-inch screen, and as soon as possible.

Ibrey offers key tips for getting your own site up to speed:

As many components, as technically possible, that are found within an investor relations website should also be readily available for mobile browsing. Stock quotes, stock charts, stock history, events, investor relations contacts, company information, financial press releases and more should be properly formatted for legibility. Smartphones have small viewing screens, so attention to display is particularly important for financial content. Table columns should line up, navigation icons should be larger, and scrolling should be limited to one direction.

Click through to read even more in-depth suggestions and analysis.


Tap Into the Hispanic Sports Market With Ease

May 5, 2010

– by Nikelle Feimster and Pilar Portela, Media Relations Specialists, Business Wire

Nikelle Feimster

Pilar Portela

On April 7, 2010, strategic planners, PR agency thought leaders, and brand and product managers convened at the 2010 LatinVision Sports & Networking Conference in New York to learn about the evolving Hispanic demographic in the US, and how to reach the Hispanic audience using sports as a platform.

The panelists were comprised of marketing experts and top executives who shared insight and best practices on how businesses can leverage Latinos’ passion for soccer and other sports. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Soccer United Marketing each use grassroots campaigns across the country to garner support for their sports, FOX and ESPN use branded media events to target the Latino community, and the NBA and NFL have increased the content available in Spanish on their websites.

According to Mario Flores, managing director of Sportivo, the right marketing mix is key to success. You have to harness the power of editorial media coverage for added exposure.


Don’t pass up opportunities to engage the Latino market. The 2010 US Census is expected to find that Hispanics number more than 50 million in the US and command $1 trillion in buying power. Unfortunately, the reality is that even though Latinos make powerful consumers, half of the U.S. advertisers are not including them in their marketing efforts.

A recent MediaPost column by Jack Loechner highlights a new Hispanic marketing trends survey by the Orcí agency that shows Hispanics are tech savvy, young trend setters with incredible spending power and yet 82% of its survey’s respondents have no plans to begin or increase existing efforts aimed at US Hispanics in the next 12 months.

Here are some key reasons why you should consider including US Hispanics in your next marketing and advertising campaign.

  • 89% believe Latinos will somewhat impact American taste in foods in the next five years.
  • 87% believe Latinos will impact fashion and beauty.
  • 82% expect Hispanics to impact entertainment.
  • 78% believe Hispanics will impact technology/communications.

The Orcí survey also found that 78% of respondents do not use social media to engage Latinos despite the fact that Hispanics are the heaviest users of wireless access through mobile phones and laptops than any other ethnic group.

Today’s brand leaders can and should actively engage with Latino customers, and Business Wire can help. By utilizing our LatinoWire product line, in conjunction with SportsWire, companies can bolster their print and Web marketing campaigns. With LatinoWire, your press release reaches the leading Spanish-language news and information outlets throughout the U.S., including more than 1,200 Hispanic print and broadcast media outlets. Our SportsWire distribution sends your news to sports reporters, columnists, syndicates and television programs as well as newspapers and other local media in your specified geographic circuit area.


Once Again, the Press Release

May 4, 2010

- by Phil Dennison, Senior Marketing Specialist

Todd Defren of PR Squared tweets about a blog entry at The Practitioner by Steve McAbee of Wunderkind Public Relations, called “Social Media: Breathing New Life Into the Press Release.”  McAbee discusses ways to use the traditional press release in conjunction with social media, by using links to attract online readers to your company’s social media newsroom on your website, as well as to content on Flickr, YouTube and other sites.  This is a notion that we’ve been pushing for years  — since launching our own site in 1995, we’ve always tried to stay ahead of technology and urge our users to do the same. We describe press releases as search engine optimized platforms for connecting with your audiences, including the media; not having appropriate links to content just won’t work.  Whether you use Todd’s SMPR template or continue to write your releases the traditional way, appropriate multimedia and link content is a must.

(Steve does briefly praise Google’s use of using a wire release to link back to their own newsroom, but in the contest of their recent earnings notice-and-access release, which Neil Hershberg discussed here yesterday.)

I do have to take issue with one thing, though:  Steve also links to a piece at Fast Company by Wendy Marx, “B2B PR: New Uses for Press Releases.”  In that article, Marx notes that “The social media release came of age in 2006 when wire services like PR newswire didn’t include multimedia components in releases.”  While I’m not going to defend the competition, Business Wire has had multimedia components in press releases for more than a decade now.

We launched our multimedia Smart News Release back in 1997, with photos and video available right from the get-go. At first, they were linked to from a thumbnail or link within the release. Today, they’re embedded in the release, with multiple resolutions and bandwidths available with a single click; and in many cases, they display at the downstream sites, too.  We made both hyperlinks and embedded logos available by 2001.

We believe in making the tools available to our users to have implement the best PR strategy possible. It’s nice to see our notions of using the press release as a pathway to other content taking root in the PR community.


Order the Berkshire Hathaway Souvenir Pennies

May 4, 2010

- by Phil Dennison, Senior Marketing Specialist

It’s safe to say that our souvenir pennies, run through our exclusive penny press machine, were a runaway smash hit at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting, where we sold more than 100 sets of four.  If you were not able to attend the event, or otherwise would like to get hold of a set, don’t despair! You can order them by mail.  Five dollars will get you a set of all four smashed pennies on a souvenir postcard.  To order, please mail a check in the amount of $5.00, made payable to CASA, and a self-addressed stamped envelope,  to:

Business Wire

4100 Newport Place, Suite 830

Newport Beach, CA 92660

ATTN: BH COINS


Inadequate Disclosure: The Truth About Transparency

May 3, 2010

– by Neil Hershberg, Senior Vice President – Global Media, Business Wire

It is the hidden paradox of the regulatory reform debate dominating today’s headlines. While improved disclosure and transparency are widely seen as the ‘silver bullets’ to remedy Wall Street’s worst abuses, the integrity of the disclosure process itself is under attack.  And individual investors are once again in danger of bearing the brunt of the damaging fallout.

For all the current talk among reformers, regulators and journalists touting the need for better disclosure and transparency, there is an inconvenient truth that is being ignored. Hardly anyone has bothered to “look under the hood,” specifically to examine the engine that drives the disclosure process. It is deliberately being throttled, resulting in ‘inadequate disclosure,” and having the reverse impact of what the reform movement is seeking to accomplish. Today’s transparency challenge could very well lead to tomorrow’s financial crisis.

Equal and Unrestricted Access to Market-Moving News

Disclosure has traditionally been defined as providing material information to ALL market participants, simultaneously and in real-time. The ideal is that all investors have equal and unrestricted access to market-moving news that may influence their investment decisions. The SEC, under Arthur Levitt, got it right when it published Regulation Fair Disclosure in 2000, formalizing the egalitarian concept of a ‘level playing field.’

By most accounts, Reg FD as originally conceived worked reasonably well, correcting certain practices that had favored Wall Street professionals, often at the expense of the average investor.

Unfortunately, the SEC didn’t leave well enough alone. It tinkered with Reg FD during the Christopher Cox regime, coming up with a solution for a problem that didn’t exist.

Interpreting the SEC Interpretive Guidance

The agency issued its Interpretive Guidance Release on Web-based Disclosure in 2008, and it quickly proved to be the modern-day equivalent of a Rorschach test for investor relations professionals. The SEC’s guidance left much to the imagination, and that is the crux of the problem. Nearly two years later, IR professionals are still trying to figure out what it all means.

Rather than providing clarity as to the appropriate use of technology in investor relations, the SEC’s guidance offered ambivalent guidelines and imprecise circumstances that created unnecessary uncertainty in the marketplace.

The true intent of the SEC’s guidance was to encourage companies to make more information available to the marketplace, by posting ‘supplemental’ news to their corporate web sites, information that may not have warranted a news release. Unfortunately, the message never resonated with the IR community, which failed to appreciate that the SEC’s guidance was simply meant to augment their communication initiatives.

The agency’s indecisive guidelines have led to predictable results, and unintended consequences. Whenever there is a perceived policy void, opportunistic individuals will seek to step in and fill the breach. Many self-anointed experts have aggressively advanced their own interpretations of the SEC’s intent, which coincidentally coincide with their own commercial interests.

Inadequate Disclosure

More ominously, however, a handful of companies have tested the waters by deliberately limiting the information that is broadly disseminated to investors. Several companies have published “notice-and-access” releases, which are brief announcements that direct investors to full-text postings on corporate websites.

Based on the sharply critical response, no one has confused “notice-and-access” with “best practices.”  The decision continues to be unpopular among journalists and investor advocates. Obviously, no one wants to play “Where’s Waldo?” during earnings season, or go scrambling for information in today’s millisecond trading environment.

The equation is clear:  “Notice-and-Access”= Inadequate Disclosure.  No advanced calculus required here; it’s Logic 101.

Here’s a checklist of critical shortcomings:

  • Simultaneous?  No.
  • Easy and equivalent access for all investors. No.
  • Archived permanently in leading databases? No.
  • A definitive audit trail for regulatory and legal review? No.
  • Protection against future insider-trading allegations? According to authoritative legal experts, no.
  • In synch with the SEC’s intent to consolidate financials in a universal programming format [XBRL]?  No.
  • Worth the risk for the modest cost-savings involved? Definitely not.

Best-Practice Disclosure Mosaic

The bottom line is that disclosure is a mosaic of distribution channels; all platforms that encourage investor outreach  — traditional, web-based, and social media — should be embraced as part of an integrated and comprehensive IR strategy. The use of Business Wire ensures simultaneous, secure and real-time delivery of price-sensitive information to ALL market participants. Corporate web sites, RSS feeds, and other emerging technologies can, and should, play an important complementary role in reaching investors.

Business Wire is a strong proponent of orderly and efficient capital markets; we are justly proud of the critical infomediary role that we play in the process. Of equal importance, we pride ourselves on the outstanding value proposition that we provide our clients, which continues to expand with the addition of new mobile applications, SEO platforms, and enhanced metrics that quantifies our return on investment.

The cost of our service is fair; the value we provide could be described as extraordinary. And when all the different expense elements that public companies pay annually to meet their listing requirements and disclosure obligations are considered, Business Wire clearly ranks as one of the least expensive charges among all compliance expenditures.

Better disclosure and transparency may well be the answer to the problems that have plagued our financial system. We ask that if improved disclosure and transparency requirements are indeed part of the financial reform package that is ultimately enacted, that the integrity of the disclosure process is upheld, and that the interests of ALL investors are protected.


Wrapup: Berkshire Hathaway 2010, Success and Good Samaritans

May 2, 2010

- by Phil Dennison, Senior Marketing Specialist

Well, the displays are all packed up, the shareholders are returning home, and the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meeting 2010 has come to a close. Business Wire had a wonderful experience this year, representing ourselves to nearly 40,000 visitors with our on-site presence among the Berkshire family of companies.

Our booth was staffed by Business Wire folks from across the country, including representatives from Cleveland, New York, Denver, San Francisco, and even all the way from Paris. We spoke to hundreds and hundreds of BH shareholders and their families about Business Wire and its services.  It was great to see so many families on the exhibit hall floor, shopping at the exhibits of different Berkshire-owned companies.  Even though we didn’t have ice cream or books or cowboy boots or jewelry or other items to sell, we still had terrific conversations about what it is we do, how good we are at it and how business has been for us.

Our penny press machine was an enormous success among visitors.  Everyone from little kids to retirees wanted to take a turn creating their own elongated pennies with one of our special designs. Unfortunately, after a few hours of operation we ran into a mechanical snag. That’s when we were helped out by an amazing gentleman named Patrick Milliken.  Patrick, a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder and the YN (Young Numismatists) Director of the Omaha Coin Club, was passing by our booth and, being a collector, decided to purchase several sets of our pennies. Our mechanical problems began while he was there, and it turns out that Patrick is also mechanically inclined. To the surprise and gratitude of our entire crew, Patrick came up with a fix — in fact, several fixes — that kept our penny press working long after it should have stopped. We at Business Wire owe Patrick an enormous thanks for helping us out and making sure lots of event attendees got their pennies, too!

I also got to spend some time, along with our other booth staff rotating in and out, in the Qwest Center arena watching the Q&A as Chairman, Warren Buffett and Vice-Chairman, Charlie Munger, took questions from shareholders, some via a 3-person media panel who selected pre-submitted questions, and some from shareholders who were selected in advance by lot to ask questions at the show. During the period I was there, I watched as Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger took and answered questions on global inflation, on US tax policy, on the American education system and even on BH-specific topics like the performance of individual subsidiaries. Both answered every question with good humor, intelligence, quickness and depth. Among the portion I got to see, highlights included Mr. Munger’s explanation of how McDonald’s supplies a better business education than most US business schools, and Mr. Buffett’s discussion of why he is giving his entire estate away rather than let it be taxed.

The biggest impressions I took away from the show were, first, what an amazingly diverse, fun and interesting bunch of people Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are. There were so many hundreds of people who came by our booth to talk, many of whom had no idea what Business Wire was or even what a wire service is, let alone how we were contributing to the Berkshire bottom line. So we got to learn a lot from them, and they learned a lot from us.

Second, I got a real, firsthand look at what it means to be part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies. It’s one thing to see yourself on a list of BH holdings. It’s another to be on the spot along with Fruit of the Loom, Dairy Queen, Geico, MidAmerican Energy, BNSF Railway and the dozens of other companies represented. All of them, like Business Wire, market leaders, well-known brands and respected innovators in their industries. That’s pretty good company to be in.

Oh, by the way, I got to meet, in person, not only the gecko, but the money I could be saving. How many people get to say that?


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