5 Things to Stop Doing to Your Press Releases in 2014

March 14, 2014

By Luke O’Neill, Business Wire Editor

In the fast-paced, deadline-driven world of public relations it’s easy to rely on tired, ineffective practices merely to churn out press release after press release. But you’re better than that, right? Folks, the time to adapt and innovate is here. Empower your clients and yourself to be better, and think outside the press release template box. In this age of bite-sized “content” and short attention spans, it is vital to relay your message as efficiently as possible in order to activate as many brand fans as possible. 5 things to STOP going to your press release in 2014 stop sign After all, the press release is no longer a staid form of communication. Today’s press releases are professional yet also personable and conversational. Today’s releases are designed to educate and activate core and secondary audiences. Are yours? Not sure? Check out the list below. Here are the top five things today’s PR professionals must stop doing in press releases in order to be successful in 2014:

1. Stop writing long headlines. Today’s press release headline needs to be accurate and concise. The headline, above all, should catch the attention of intended audiences, and get them to read your release. Headlines particularly need strong verbs and should be devoid of adjectives. Instead, try writing a shorter headline – we suggest about 70 characters long. Don’t forget to include the company names in your headline. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to issue news and leave your name out of the most visible part of the release.

2. Stop over-stylizing. Too many bolds, italics, underlines, super and subscripts and even too many hyperlinks can turn a press release into an eyesore. Too many styles are hard on the eyes; they simply make your release more difficult to read. Use these styles sparingly and usually for emphasis, and watch the readability index for your release increase.

3. Stop overloading releases with keywords. Once upon a time, it was important to cram “relevant” keywords into a press release to appease the search engine optimization gods. Now? Not so much. Search engine algorithms have changed to reward good writing made for human consumption while also satisfying the technical side of web visibility. Business Wire issued a very helpful guide this year on press release optimization (download it here: http://go.businesswire.com/guide-to-press-release-optimization). This guide includes 10 steps to create a better release in 2014.

4. Stop using only embedded links. Press releases should incorporate a mix of spelled-out URLs and embedded links. Spelled-out URLs travel further, i.e. they can be read if you print out the story or seen in an email if there’s no HTML setup. When it comes to links, you want to be strategic. Use links sparingly, and of course don’t forget to test them before distributing your story.

5. Stop writing so much text. News releases, like actual news articles, ought to get to the point quickly. Stop writing long passive sentences and long-winded quotes and focus on shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, bullets and images to make your point.  Writing press releases is an art form all unto itself. The fastest way to master the art of crafting an actionable, successful press release is to focus on clear, succinct writing and smart imagery. Try it and see for yourself!


Increasing Tweets of Your Press Release: ClickToTweet 101

February 17, 2014

By Julie Nastri, Business Wire

It is common knowledge in the media industry that there’s a science behind effective use of Twitter.  From organically growing quality followers, to devising a salient tweet, or selecting the appropriate tool to manage Twitter presence, almost every decision one makes is based on data. While it’s true that keeping abreast of the dynamic Twittersphere can sometimes be daunting, there are free Twitter tools, such as  ClickToTweet, that eliminate some of the drudgery from bolstering Twitter presence and publicizing content.

In a nutshell
ClickToTweet can be accessed through its website or by downloading a browser plug-in. Users visit the site, create a custom tweet, and the site generates an embeddable link which users then share by including it in press releases or blog copy. When a reader clicks on the ClickToTweet link, they are taken to a pre-populated Twitter status update and prompted to tweet it. Voila! ClickToTweet ramps up tweetability without requiring much effort from either side. By prepopulating the tweet, ClickToTweet decreases the barrier to entry, making sharing quick and easy.

Step-by-step
Creating a ClickToTweet link is as easy as sending one out. Access ClickToTweet by visiting www.clicktotweet.com. The first thing visitors to the site will see is the following 3-step guide:

Although these steps are pretty clear, there are a few important points for both newbies and seasoned tweeters to keep in mind.

Make the most of your content.
Let’s say the content you’d like to share is a press release about an upcoming conference presentation. You’ve already created a compelling press release announcing the event and relaying the specifics.  Now, it’s time to decide what you’d like to ask your audience to “click to tweet.”  When crafting your tweet, think of it much like a (tasteful) one liner. Concise, yet catchy. This is your chance to pique public interest in your topic and to lead interested parties back to your press release, promoting the event and your company or brand. And, if you’re on top of your game and your news is compelling and relevant to them, they’ll also tweet your ClickToTweet link, thereby calling their followers to check out—and possibly share—your content. This kicks off an entire sharing cycle, with each influencer driving their  followers into and through your marketing and sales funnel.

Not sure what to feature in your tweet? First determine who your audience is – the average press release contains elements relevant to each buyer persona. Distributing tweets customized by readers is a great way to kick off social sharing. In addition, consider the potential highlights of your press release. Is there a new product being released that’s been getting a lot of buzz? Is a major personnel announcement expected? Is the company rebranding? These are details you can feature to hook followers. Multiple ClickToTweet links may be included in a press release, allowing readers to share each compelling bullet point, but be careful not to overdo it. Although two or three are ok, remember that just one ClickToTweet link has the potential to start a promising chain reaction, if well formulated. Think quality.

Draft the ClickToTweet link

  • Try to come up with something more compelling than the press release headline. This will ensure the best success (retweets and link clicks) of your tweet.
  • Include a link to the release itself, as well as any relevant hashtags.
  • Remember that Twitter has a 140-character limit. Maximize your Twitter real estate by using a URL shortener like bitly.com to shorten the link to your blog or press release.  (ClickToTweet will automatically shorten links, but this can get messy if the URL and tweet are close to 140 characters before you even begin.)
  • Leave room (20-30 characters) for retweeters to add their own comments.
  • Mention your twitter handle so that you can track your retweets. However, avoid beginning your tweet with the @ symbol, as it will limit visibility.
  • When embedding the ClickToTweet link in your press release, be strategic. Make it stand out, but keep it near relevant content. You can change the anchor text so that its message is something other than “ClickToTweet”… but coming up with something better may prove to be more challenging than expected.

Enjoy the perks.
After drafting and embedding your link in your final press release, blog post, or email, sit back and leave the rest of the work up to your audience. Watch as the retweets keep your Twitter feed active and use the analytic tools on the ClickToTweet website to track and map click activity. Remember:  Content can only be so effective without successful, strategic integration with the right combo of social media presence and tools.

* Basic links are free and unlimited, but tracking and stats are not provided. Users are also allowed a limited number of free, trackable links, but after that, they must either pay to upgrade, or delete old links to make room for new links (and therefore lose all their tracking information and stats).


How to Increase your PR Horse Power for the Lunar New Year

January 31, 2014

Turn your press release into a charging warhorse

By Joanne Ngo and Alex Howard, Business Wire

January 31, 2014 is the first day of the Lunar New Year, the most celebrated holiday in China, Vietnam and other parts of Asia. It is a celebration honoring new life. It is a highly anticipated holiday full of firecrackers, dragon dances, temple visits, lucky red envelopes and family gatherings.

One of the ways the horse serves human beings is to give people a ride to their destination. Therefore, the horse is not only a symbol of travel, but also a sign of speedy success.

One of the ways the horse serves human beings is to give people a ride to their destination. Therefore, the horse is not only a symbol of travel, but also a sign of speedy success.

This year is the year of the horse. The horse is one of the favorite animals in the Chinese zodiac, and is closely linked to people’s lives because of its ability to quickly transport people and things. In China, the Red Hare was the celebrated warhorse of Lü Bu, the ancient Chinese general and warlord. According to legend, the Red Hare had a reputation of being the horse that could travel hundreds of miles a day, climb mountains as if they were flat land, cross rivers and much more. As we at Business Wire prepared for the Lunar New Year, it occurred to us that the mystical Red Hare is much like today’s modern press release. The horse, for example, is a symbol of:

  • Strength: Like the horse, a press release is a pack animal, capable of carrying loads of information to your audience.
  • Efficiency: Similar to how a horse helps you work more efficiently, your press release when distributed via Business Wire, helps you efficiently deliver a message packed with content that your readers and media want to read, report on and share.
  • Speed: Comparable to a galloping horse, news shared via Business Wire travels around the globe, quickly, easily and effortlessly.

Our thoughts of Lü Bu’s many military victories got us thinking of Lü Bu atop his magnificent steed, charging into battle. As in war, where one would never send a horse out to battle without armor, the same goes for your press release. To protect your brand, product and message, outfit your press release properly – utilize clear, relevant writing, multimedia, social media calls to action, and hyperlinks. A warhorse cannot fight an army without armor, and neither can your news.

Train your Release Prior to Battle: Make it Clear and Relevant

One of the most important ways to prepare your news to battle today’s content clutter is to make sure your release is clear and relevant. A well written, highly targeted press release sparks conversation and interaction and guides journalists and other interested readers to your news. Today, this is more important than ever thanks to Google’s recent algorithm changes. Google no longer places emphasis on individual keywords placed in copy, but instead helps users find your news via natural search phrases.

Outfit Your Release for Battle

Once you have a beautifully crafted, relevant story, you need to arm it for battle. In 2011, Skyword’s research discovered that news articles with images received 94% more views than news articles without imagery. In 2013 the award winning study conducted by SEO-PR and Business Wire, the press release that included video had 55% more views than the one without it. In 2014, multimedia is a required element to any article or story. Visuals quickly capture the attention of today’s fast-paced, mobile-crazy audience. They also help illustrate a very technical or lengthy press release, support new product launches and paint a clear vivid picture of your story. This imagery will help your press release defeat the clutter and reach your target audiences faster and more effectively.

The Charge

In war, the battle cry can unify the corps and intimidate your opponents, so give you news the final advantage with a battle cry. One of the best ways to increase the impact of your press release is to initiate social sharing. Including a sharing call to action, such as including a Click to Tweet, allows readers and brand fans to tweet your news, your battle cry.

After the fighting is over, the warrior leads the Red Hare home. Just as the warrior leads his horse home, so must you lead your readers. Include relevant, natural links within your press release to help interested parties continue their journey to learn more about your business. For best usage of your links, limit them to an average of one link per 100 words.

Winning the Battle, Winning the War

Just as the Red Hare served the warrior in times of need, so will your press release serve you. When crafted properly, and outfitted with its armor of multimedia, this piece of content will cut through the clutter and deliver your news, your company story to all corners of the world.

 


Editor’s Corner: Putting Faces with Names: Getting The Most Out Of Personnel Announcements

January 7, 2014

By Dara Khan, Business Wire Editor

 When you submit a personnel announcement to Business Wire, our editors are the first eyes on your staffing news. Our talented and experienced newsroom team reviews hundreds of news items per week, and we have developed a pretty good sense of what elements make them successful. Here’s one editor’s take on putting together a winning press release for announcing hires, promotions, or other staffing changes in your organization.

Natalie

The best piece of advice I can give is to include multimedia with your press release.

When you meet people for the first time, you remember them by both their names and faces. This is true in press releases as well; by including a photo of the person, you make it easy for reporters, analysts and others to put face to the name. We editors know from experience that releases with a photo—whether of a new executive hire or a retiring founder—instantly capture readers’ attention, and our research has shown that releases with photos or other multimedia generate five to ten times more pickup than those without them. That is just from adding a photo or video to your news release!

However, there are other ways to increase your press release’s visibility.Broader distribution of press releases allows for reporters and other brand fans to find and share your news.  But why not consider adding a targeted specialty circuit to increase visibility within highly specific target markets? If you’ve made a prominent minority hire, consider the Asian-American Media, African-American Media or LatinoWire circuits, which all heavily target media in markets that can be difficult to reach through broader channels. If your release is about someone who has made significant contributions through nonprofit and charity work, consider the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) circuit. If you’re running a cutting-edge startup and just added a big name to your team, congrats! Now is the perfect time to take advantage of BW’s new partnership with VentureBeat.  Each of these distributions reaches a highly targeted list of reporters and media outlets, all viewing and sharing these kinds of announcements on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, the foundation of a good personnel announcement is a concise and well-written press release. This may seem like a very basic tip, but it is surprising how often we see releases that are unnecessarily long, overly wordy, or lack quotations from or about the personnel in question. That last part is especially important.  Why? Because including quotes is another great way to capture the human element—and the attention of readers. These quotes are so frequently sought after that Business Wire’s system actually automatically generates highlighted pull quotes from those sections!  These pull quotes appear on the businesswire.com version for your release (as well as via our PressPass media news service), so be sure to use that to your advantage by making them shine.

Lastly, do not hesitate to call your local Business Wire newsroom or account executive to discuss more ways to get the most out of your personnel announcements. One thing that sets BW apart is the degree of hands-on, personalized service from our 24 local news bureaus. As the only commercial newswire with this many editorial offices, Business Wire has editors and a sales team who are always ready to help you send your press release out to the biggest possible audience. We always look forward to hearing from you!


Business Wire Presents: Everything PR and IR Pros Need to Know for 2014

January 2, 2014

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social & Emerging Platforms

Let’s face it; there is nothing better than working the last two weeks of the year.  Oh you may think it is better to be with friends and family or battling mall crowds or lines at the airport, but in reality, those of us working this week are enjoying shorter commuting times, phones not ringing and a few spare minutes to catch up on the latest industry news and trends.

As we in the Business Wire marketing team catch up on our reading, we compiled this list of posts to catch you up on the best of 2013 and prepare you for a productive and successful 2014.

Top Gaffes for 2013 (after all, you don’t want to end up on this list next year!)

2013 Industry Changes + Best Practices

Looking ahead: Top Tips and Predictions to Prepare You for 2014

And just for fun, a hat tip to Buzzfeed for this scarily accurate look at Isaac Asimov and his 1964 predictions for 2014.


Tips, tricks and advice for today’s PR, IR and Marketing Professionals

October 19, 2013

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social & Evolving Media

What a week!  There were so many great news pieces, platform changes, tips and more that we had to commit an entire blog to sharing them with you.

Below please find this week’s top stories for public relations, corporate communications, investor relations and marketing communication professionals.

Social Platform + Search Engine Updates

Media + Research

Tips, Tricks and Best Practices

Did you find this list useful?  Did we miss anything?  If so, please share below, we are always looking for compelling information we can share with our audience!


Daylight Saving Time: Keep it in Mind When Sending Press Releases this Weekend

November 3, 2011
 
Most areas of the United States “fall back” an hour at 2 a.m. local time on Sunday, November 6.   In fact, about 70 countries utilize Daylight Saving Time around the world.  Japan, India, and China are the only major industrialized countries that don’t observe some form of daylight saving. 

Daylight Savings Time begins this Sunday

Daylight Saving Time begins this Sunday

 
Those sending press  releases this weekend should keep the time change in mind when sending out their news.
 
Here’s a great reference to see which geographic locations change when.  For those sending press releases to Business Wire, no worries.   The time zones in Business Wire Connect, our secure, client interface, update automatically to reflect appropriate time zone changes on Sunday.
 
Daylight saving time has already ended in Europe.  The European Union and United Kingdom turned the clocks back an hour at 1 a.m. on October 30.   As of last Sunday, London will once again be five hours ahead of eastern standard time and Paris will be six hours ahead.
 
For those who enjoy sleeping in on Sunday mornings, here’s your chance for the rare 25-hour day.
 

Tips for Effective Searching: Knowing your Defaults Results in Better Google Search Engine Results

October 13, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist

Sandy Malloy, Senior Information SpecialistIn our recent post on free tools for monitoring your press releases, we encouraged users to revisit their Google Alerts settings.  This valuable service was established years ago.  Lots of us signed up then and have never looked back.  We hope you’ve updated your alert settings and are getting better results after a quick check-up.

The same is true for ad hoc searching.  Nonchalant typing of a phrase into the Google search box can be tempting, but a few thoughtful tips can help you get the most out of the search experience.  Here’s a few to get you started.

1)  Know your defaults.  It’s good to know your faults, but when it comes to searching, it’s even more important to know your defaults. Many of these can be changed to improve results.

For example, a search on Google Web (http://www.google.com) defaults to “everything.”   Sounds comprehensive, right?

Not necessarily.  An automatic blanket search can have drawbacks.   The information you are seeking often gets buried beneath higher-ranking but irrelevant pages.  You  may be better served searching individual Google content areas such as news, images  or Web separately.  Also, try Advanced Search (discussed below).

The order in which results are displayed can also affect your results.  The default sort order is “relevance.”  This type of sorting  works great for non-news websites.  For news, sorting by date is often better.

Unless you specify otherwise, Google will suppress apparent duplicate content.  Again, for some types of searches, that’s fine.  If you want to find a company’s website, it’s usually the first result on the page and you don’t need anything else.  Or you may want to know that a piece of news appeared and don’t care which version of the story you see.  But what if you want to see how widely that story was disseminated?  Google will show you one version of the story unless you override duplicate suppression.

2)  Searching for exact phrases is a common strategy, but did you know you can use quotes around your phrase or dashes between the words for exact matches?

If you don’t, Google will search that combination of words in any order and not necessarily next to one another.  That can result in weird returns such as this recent search for stories about Fire Prevention Week.

I added no quotes or dashes. The third result: “The State Police forensic team, State Fire Prevention and Control, A week after the fire, owners Mike and Jim Frazee said they plan to rebuild their .…”

For common combinations of words (e.g., “Barack Obama”) it’s not that critical to be more specific.  But combinations of common words can spit out irrelevant results that nevertheless rank high because all the words are present.

3)  Make Advanced Search your friend.  It will allow you to put in phrases without worrying about the format (see #2 above), combine words and phrases (hint:  a phrase using a dash, e.g. fire-prevention-week, can be used as a “word” in the advanced search form) and even allow you to narrow your search using other parameters such as source name or domain.  The domain option in Google Web is a great way to find information from non-commercial sources.  For instance, you can find health-related information coming from educational (.edu) or government (.gov) sources, or nonprofits (.org)  In News, I like to specify my time frame as well.


How Are You Managing Your Online Newsroom? Please take Survey, We’ll Share Results

September 12, 2011

by Ibrey Woodall, VP Web Communications Services

Ibrey WoodallIn several years of creating online newsrooms, many of my most enjoyable experiences have been working directly with, and learning from corporate communicators in the field. I’ve met some great people, and I’ve been fortunate to be involved with online newsrooms for educational institutions to Fortune 500 corporations.

The stories I’ve heard are endless and entertaining. To me, public relations professionals are the soldiers on the front line. They maintain the reputation of their organization and deal with a barrage of questions – especially when things go wrong. I began surveying journalists in 2004 to see what they wanted from an online newsroom. That’s all pretty common knowledge now.

My goal today is to continue accumulating more real-world knowledge from PR warriors, and relay that to other communicators. Business Wire has teamed up with Bulldog Reporter to gather responses, and share them with all communicators.

If you have an online newsroom, please participate in the Communicators Online Newsroom Survey. Let us know how you manage your online newsroom. There are only 29 questions, so it won’t take long. You have until Sunday, September 18 to help your industry peers, and maybe even win an Apple iPad2TM.

Communicators Online Newsroom Survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/OnlineNewsrooms

I look forward to learning more.


How to Write Good Quotes: Keeping it Real Makes Your Press Release More Effective

August 30, 2011

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media

Our friends over at Ragan wrote an enviable dispatch recently, 4 Ways to Improve Quotes in Press Releases.  Wish we had authored this one.

Quotes are a tradition in press releases and inject a human voice into the text.  The challenge of balancing executives’ bloated claims in quotation marks with saying something meaningful continues for writes of press releases.   Quotes riddled with jargon and buzzwords lose their meaning and leave the reader wondering, “Huh?”

Good QuotesRagan cited this bad example of a quote from  President and CEO John Johnson:

“I plan to continue this legacy of providing innovative products and services to our customers. With over 30 competing companies for our customers to choose from, we have some challenges ahead. I am confident that we can meet those challenges successfully. And the first step is the release of our new app.”

In such cases, better to paraphrase like this:

“President and CEO John Johnson believes the release of the new app will provide customers with the communications tools they need, setting XYZ Company apart from more than 30 competitors. “

Our own Andrew Guinn wrote about the grammar of quotation marks in press releases a few weeks ago–don’t you sometimes wonder where punctuation belongs?  We also touched on making your quotes more notable in a recent Press Release Basics webinar last week.

Apart from injecting humanity into a press release, quotes are often featured as a “pull quote” drawing even more attention to their effectiveness–or lack of it.  Best to craft them carefully.


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