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!


The Press Release Then and Now: How We Arrived At Where We Are Today

January 27, 2014

By: Hannah Kelly, Business Wire, Paris

This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the most important milestones in the history of public relations – Ivy Lee’s management of the 1913-1914 Colorado Coal Strike aftermath.

The term ‘Public Relations’ first appeared in the 1897 Year Book of Railway Literature, and the original press release, which we can credit to Ivy Lee, was published in 1906 – following the tragic loss of 50 lives in the Pennsylvanian Railroad Crash.

Equally, Lee’s Declaration of Principles, also released in 1906, was a turning point for public relations, as it communicated the responsibility of those working in PR, not only to the client but also to the public. This declaration ensured that Lee’s work was subsequently accepted not in the form of advertising, but as news, as accurate information, as matter “of value and interest to the public”. This was, and still is, the founding principle of wire services such as Business Wire, Associated Press, AFP and more.

So with all of these important events taking place before 1914, what exactly was it about the Colorado Coal Strike that is now so crucial to the history of public relations?

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

Firstly, the strike needed publicity management due to its hotly controversial nature – on-strike miners and their families were killed by state militia, and the mining union blamed the Rockefeller family and their coal mining business for the deaths.

Lee used, to his advantage, the establishment and acceptance of his Declaration of Principles as the basis for the management of the Colorado Coal Strike aftermath.  He drafted and mailed an array of bulletins to media outlets and workers alike, addressing the issue with candor (as well as successfully keeping the Rockefeller name free from reputational damage). This has become known as one of the most successful and influential PR campaigns – an experience that demonstrated, for the first time, the importance of publicity and public relations to the American nation.

It should be noted that doubts do exist regarding the authenticity of this campaign, whether certain facts were distorted, and if this was the case, as to whether this was intentional or not. However, despite any uncertainties, we must concede that this campaign achieved its goals : to promote the facts of the event and to share news with the public, whilst recognising its responsibility to both the public and the client, the Rockefeller’s.

Many years later, the standard of PR established in Lee’s Declaration of Principles has evolved significantly. It is now so well integrated into modern society that we no longer even question it. PR is an essential part of business life – and it would be unthinkable to run a company nowadays without openness and honesty to the public. It is for this reason that Business Wire works so hard to ensure the authenticity of all press releases, and adheres to such stringent security regulations. We agree with Lee’s rules: “Accuracy, Authenticity, and Interest”.


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.


Marketing vs. PR Writing – What’s the Difference?

January 18, 2012

… in this social media world we live in, the line between marketing and public relations writing is or ought to be blurred and that’s a good thing.

Hyperbole-filled marketing prose will quite likely be dismissed by target audiences just as verbose public relations copy. Through social media, our customers help keep savvy marketers grounded and more authentic, as journalists have done in their engagements with public relations practitioners for years. To say there is a line between marketing and public relations writing, then, misses the point of the current world of communications.

Press releases are used to engage consumers. Journalists go to customers and corporate websites to gather reporting information. So, your communications practitioners should all be singing from the same song sheet, so to speak…

What’s your take?


To Register or Not to Register? For Press Release Measurement, a Tough Question

August 9, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist

In a column on ClickZ entitled “5 Traits of the Analytically Empowered Organization,” Neil Mason offers basic guidelines on how to get the most out of measurement and analysis.  Mason addresses website analytics but his guidelines can also apply to interpreting press release measurement data collected in Business Wire’s complimentary Newstrak reports.

“In an ideal world, data is integrated around known users but this may not always be appropriate or possible,” wrote Mason. “Some internal data may be on a customer level, but digital data is often based on cookie level data.”   

In other words, if you know with whom you are dealing (your own customers, or website visitors about whom you have specific information that they provided upon registration) you can record accurate information about those people.  If not, you have to gather information using less direct, and therefore less accurate, methods.

So, although ideally you would like in-depth, accurate data about each visitor to your site, or viewer of your press releases, realistically you might not be able to gather this data without compelling that person to register.  But compulsory registration can cause someone to leave a website.  A recent study found that 75% of consumers take issue with being asked to register on a website and will change their behavior as a result.

The Business Wire site stopped requiring registration as a prerequisite to reading full press releases because we wanted visitors to stay on our site longer and read more of our clients’ releases.  The trade-off is missing visitor-supplied information about their geographic location, industry, job title, and other facts from registration forms. 

We can still report upon each visitor’s “location” but that information actually corresponds to the IP address of the visitor.  Sometimes that’s the same as where the visitor is located.  In other cases, it only reflects where the internet service provider is located. 

We’re not alone in swapping broad access and happy website visitors for information that we have to then find indirectly (or selectively,  from the relative few who don’t mind registering). 

For instance, I’ve seen demos of social media analysis products that have geographic and demographic sections.   When I have pressed the salesperson for how these data were derived, I learned they used IP addresses–exactly as we do–and reported demographics for users who include that information in their profiles.  In other words, indirect, or selective; or even very, very selective, information.

None of this means that their reports, or our reports, are useless.  On the contrary, they can be extremely useful but, as is the case with any statistical report, you must know what you’re viewing.

Here are some tips on how to use statistical reports with these constraints in mind:

  • Don’t accept any numbers at face value.  Understand the context in which they exist and how they fit in with one another as well as with any statistics you might be gathering internally.
  • Make sure you are indeed gathering those internal statistics.  Don’t rely on third party reports to tell you the whole story about what you are trying to measure–the “known users” referred to above are YOUR users, and you can leverage those relationships to gather a lot of information.
  • Especially if you are purchasing a measurement product, don’t be so lulled by the sexiness of the presentation that you fail to ask the vendor, “How do you find this information?”  Prod for  specifics so you’ll know what numbers to rely upon and which should be taken with that proverbial grain of salt.

Importance of Writing Good Headlines Magnified as Attention Spans and Space Decrease

February 3, 2011
Free “How to Write A Good Headline” Webinar to Offer Headline Writing Tips
by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media

Gawker rolled out its redesign this week, provoking an echo chamber of speculation on what it means for blogs, Twitter and new media in general, and the blogosphere in particular.

One theme was constant in the online nattering:  headlines have never been more important.

With our miniscule attention spans, a firehose of content, and search engines that systematically weigh the first 70 characters of any content page, headlines today carry an unprecedented burden to deliver readers.   And with Twitter and Facebook referring so many pageviews, we no longer enjoy the luxury of the lead paragraph to tell our stories.

The headline stands alone.

“Headlines on websites—particularly those found on news websites with content heavy homepages—carry a very heavy load,” wrote Jake Brooks, Chief Strategist and Project Director of Hazan+Company, in a February 1 blogpost. “For these types of sites, the difference between 10,000 pageviews can rest entirely on the quality of the headline and how well it sells a story.”

No kidding.  And when it comes to press releases, a great headline can make the difference between your carefully crafted news release flying high or detouring to the delete heap.

If you can use some help with headline writing, please join us February 16 for a FREE educational webinar on How to Write  a Good HeadlineRegistration is free.

We’ll look at headlines from both sides of the aisle–from the perspectives of readers and robots.   Our guests will be veteran journalist Terry Scott Bertling, niche/products editor at the San Antonio Express-News; and SEO-meister  Greg Jarboe, President of SEO-PR.

Hope to “see” you there.

How to Write A Good Headline
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
10 AM Pacific/ Noon Central/ 1 PM Eastern
FREE
Register Now

 

 


Happy Chinese New Year! And Make Sure Your International Target Audience is not on Vacation

February 2, 2011
by Matthew Allinson, International Media Relations Supervisor

Matt Allinson, Business Wire International Media Relations SupervisorThe wisdom of sending a news release to a country that’s on holiday is a frequent question at our news desk.  Our response?

Unwise.  And when the news is sent anyway, our clients wonder about the lackluster  pick-up by media.

A better question is why would you spend your company’s hard-earned dollars/euros/pounds/yen sending out a news release that virtually no one is going to read because they’re taking a day—or a week–off?

The practice of forcing news during holidays is predominantly an American one.  The U.S. penchant for a 24/7/365 go-go-go news cycle has made us believe everyone else in the world operates likewise.

Yet most countries and cultures work at a much more leisurely pace, often enjoying twice the vacation time as the American worker.  With the exception of New Zealand, Americans work more every year than any other industrialized nation.

What this means is that if you’re responsible for sending news overseas, be aware of what’s taking place in your target countries or regions so that your news doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Here’s what David Lore, the bureau chief at Interfax Shanghai, had to say about doing business in China during a holiday:

When it comes to doing business in China, there are a host of “dos and don’ts” that can make or break a deal. You don’t embarrass your Chinese partner in front of his subordinates, and you do take major holidays into consideration when preparing press releases. Especially the week-long Chinese New Year holiday (CNY), also known as Spring Festival. Without question the single most important holiday on the Lunar Calendar, CNY is a time when tens of millions of Chinese are on the move, returning to hometowns to reunite with family and friends.

On a business level, top decision-makers and opinion-shapers usually depart on extended vacations that often encompass the week before and the week after CNY. For all intents and purposes, China’s economy (with a few exceptions, like retail) goes into a kind of hibernation from Feb 2 – Feb 8.

The best resource we’ve found to monitor holidays all over the world is bank-holidays.com.  This site provides information on when banks and stock exchanges are closed for public or religious holidays. Other major events (elections, planned strikes, festivals, etc.) are also listed which can help when determining the proper timing of a news release.

Other, less detailed resources include Onada, Who is on Holiday and Wikipedia.


Breaking News: Press Release STILL Not Dead

September 28, 2010

 

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President New Media

Will the death wish for the press release never cease?  Something about the approach of Day of the Dead each Fall seems to provoke fantasies of its demise.

A recent article in AdAge is a case in point.  Media columnist Simon Dumenco suggested that Twitter has made press releases obsolete.  “The long-suffering, much maligned press release, I’d argue, finally died this summer,” he wrote.    Dumenco pointed to Kanye West and other celebs as models of  how Twitter can replace press releases.

This just in: Press release still not dead

But then PR  people  (including yours truly)  chimed in, vigorously  rising to the press release’s defense.          

Among the comments:

 

            

“Dead?! Oh, Mr. Dumenco, I disagree.” –nravlin,    Burlington, VT

“There will always be a need for someone to encapsulate that great story, that feature, in a form which has shape and rationale and the emotional appeal which is what resonates with people’s fundamental needs.”–JustWrite, Los Angeles, CA

“Press releases aren’t dead, so let’s try to be a bit less argumentative and bit more informed, shall we?”–cameronb129, Baltimore, MD

“Yes, my industry has changed. I used to type news releases on an IBM Selectric. Now I compose them in a word processor, and embed hotlinks and keywords….the purpose of the news release itself hasn’t changed. And, luckily for my clients, neither have my results when it comes to writing and distributing news releases.”–Kathleen Hanover, Las Vegas

The discussion has churned for years.   Silicon Valley blogger Tom Foremski stirred up the nondebate back in 2006 with a now infamous rant, Die Press Release! Die! Die! Die!  I wrote about it right here almost exactly two years ago.  A Google search of the phrase “death of the press release” returns more than 19 million results.  And the AdAge article referenced above provoked more than 20 comments, a slew of blogposts, and an active discussion in the PRSA group on LinkedIn.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, press releases are here to stay.  They continue to serve as one of the most  useful, cost effective, enduring and yes–ubiquitous–tools in the marketing and communications arsenal. We can legitimately debate what to call them:  press releases, news releases, h-releases, social media releases, social media news releases.  But that’s another blogpost.     

For more on the State of the Press Release, check out our White Paper.


PR Peeps Poll: What’s Your Biggest Digital Pet Peeve? Almost 40% said “All of the Above”

July 8, 2010

 

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President, New Media 

When it comes to online manners,  we’re an increasingly rowdy bunch.   That’s the takeaway from this month’s PR Peeps Poll, which asked professional communicators to weigh in on their biggest digital pet peeve.  

Top vote-getter?  Almost 40% said  “all of the above.”  Details, below.

 

PR Peeps Poll  What’s your biggest digital pet peeve?

57, or 24%–Inappropriate cellphone use

40, or 17%–Blue Tooth user who makes us think he’s talking to us

14, or 6%–Profanity and crassness in new media settings

32, or 14%–Texting while I’m presenting

91, or 39%–All of the above.

Six PR Peeps couldn’t resist adding their own digital don’ts–from bad grammar in emails and loud talkers to ALL CAPS MESSAGES (are you annoyed yet?) and the “complete lack of civility as we knew it.”

The poll coincided with our “Etiquette in the Digital Age” webinar presented by the ever proper Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute.    Apparently PR people are right in line with mass America, as Anna cited a survey that states 69% of Americans feel we are more rude  today than we were several decades ago.  Check out the video recap if you’re interested.   Please.

To those who participated, thank you–-and how about helping with our next PR Peeps Poll:  When’s the best time to send a press release?  Please let us know. 

234 respondents via Twitter and Business Wire webinar polls. Poll conducted June 1 – July 5, 2010


Press Release Case Study: From Press Release to Dr. Phil Show

June 22, 2010

 

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President New Media

A well-written press release, a heartfelt story, and a timely news hook  landed self-published author Jodi Bean on the Dr. Phil Show to promote her book and her cause.   How much did it cost?  Only $300.

Bean, of Alpine, Utah,  issued a press release on Business Wire’s Utah circuit on April 14  about her challenges raising a difficult adopted child from Belarus.   The story was especially compelling in the wake of the media furor over a Nashville mom who was vilified for sending her troubled adopted son back to Russia six months after his arrival because of violent behavior and psychological problems.

With help from online PR pro Janet Thaeler, Bean’s press release resulted in an April 30 story on the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune with the headline “Preventing failed adoptions: Prospective parents need more info on childhood trauma.”   Bean’s book, Love Lessons and her Finding Hope Foundation,  were founded specifically to address those needs.

Shortly after the front page placement, and following an email follow-up, the Dr. Phil Show called.  By June 10 Jodi Bean was being interviewed on national television. 

” The important thing was to link to the book, her other appearances and to her foundation. These built trust and gave her credibility,” says Thaeler, author of the book I Need a Killer Press Release, Now What??.   Thaeler inserted useful, relevant links throughout the press release.  She also detailed the press release case study in a recent blogpost.

Apart from great media placements, Bean relayed that she went from selling two-three books a week, to two-three books a day. 

“It was my first press release and it was really successful,” says Bean.  “I’m going to do another one.”  

We’re glad to hear it.   Do you have an impressive press release case study that involves Business Wire services? Email monika.maeckle@businesswire.com


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