One of the challenges public relations (PR) professionals face today is that many people associate PR with traditional processes rapidly becoming outdated. This misconception creates an uphill battle to convince potential clients that PR is an industry still very much alive and needed in today’s crowded media landscape.
In fact, it’s more important than ever. With social media’s 24/7 conversation, some companies would have a nearly impossibly time digging themselves out of crises without proper PR guidance. But crisis communications isn’t the only need for PR now – a digitized approach to PR helps brands differentiate themselves from competitors and strengthen their image whether there’s a crisis or it’s just another good day.
One approach we highly encourage at Overit is pairing PR experts with search engine optimization (SEO) professionals.
Break it Down like Curtis Mayfield – (A Foundation To Get Found)
SEO is an ever-changing, incredibly important web tactic to help drive traffic to a website. Many people have at least a basic understanding of the practice. You find ways, both on-page and off-page, to attract higher rankings in search engines, primarily Google, which in turn drive increase, relevant traffic to your site. On-page SEO deals with the headlines of your posts, keywords in your content, URL strings and even some coding. Off-page refers to the various methods unrelated to your own website that help increase SEO strength, usually through link building. The more third-party sites that link back to your site (as long as they are high quality), the more valuable Google sees you, and you are then rewarded with higher rankings.
Content marketing, or the art of producing rich content and obtaining links, is a whole lesson in itself, requiring a content marketing strategy. One piece of content within this strategy, bringing together SEO, PR and content folks, is the press release.
Old like Machine Head – (The Traditional Press Release)
For those unfamiliar with PR, writing and distributing a press release is a very traditional tactic to help disseminate hard news. Press releases follow a distinct format that can cause individual releases to often look and read very similarly (thus requiring strategy and creativity if you want yours to stand out). They typically include contact info, an embargo time, headline, subhead, date, location, lead, body, quote, call to action and a boilerplate. Historically, press releases were mailed, and then later faxed, to media outlets to encourage coverage.
Unlike conversational blog posts, press releases are usually written in a formal business tone and contain information such as technical specifications and statistics. The main purpose of the press release is to encourage reporters to produce coverage through methods such as a news story, product trial or executive interview. However, if reporters do not have time or interest to have further conversation with you or your client, the release provides them with all the necessary information required about the announcement for a write-up to be published at their media outlet.
New like No Doubt – (The Digital Press Release)
Today, these releases are spread through digital means. PR pros typically use a wire service (Business Wire, PR Newswire, PRWeb, to name a few) that sends the release to hundreds or thousands of inboxes. These online releases can be optimized for the web and may include links, images and video to to give reporters all the necessary materials needed to cover the story, whether its sharing your news in a print piece or sharing your story on social media with eye-catching imagery. As were traditional press releases, these online versions continue to be a great way to make a splash around an announcement and to create buzz around products or services.
Bad like Michael Jackson (Bad Strategy, Worse Ranking)
There has been great debate recently over whether news releases carry any SEO value. Let me clear things up.
There are many ineffective news releases circling the web these days. Some companies have been advised to distribute releases each week just for the sake of pushing out content chock-full of links to simply try and raise the number of inbound links to their site. These brands throw money at wire services and keep their fingers crossed for the best. I suppose you can call this a black hat technique, and the truth is there is no value in this practice. Besides having releases with no real news hook (which is bound to happen since even the largest companies do no have hard news on a weekly basis), you are recycling content, which Google frowns upon.
Additionally, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Remember the Boy who Cried Wolf? If you distribute releases with no newsworthy nature, then when you do have a major story, no one will pay attention.
Good like Better than Ezra (How You Unite PR and SEO Correctly)
If you type in a search on Google, you will see often see links stemming from news releases ranking highly, both in the general web search and the news search. Why?
- Keyword research – The writers optimized the content with fitting phrases and headlines that warranted strong results for the published release.
- Imagery and video– The piece is sharable on the social web, driving attention to it.
- Newsworthiness – The well-written news release with a real, interesting, timely news announcement has gotten picked up by other media outlets, reinforcing the value of its content.
- Corridors – The press release was published to relevant geographical areas or trade outlets that cover specific categories, resulting in better coverage and pickup. For example, if you are a consumer package goods brand in Florida, the release could be targeted for “food and beverage” and “southeast US.”
With a strategic online news release execution, inbound links will increase, giving your site a better search score. It all comes down to strategy. Can news releases make or break your brand’s search rankings? No. Can they help when integrated properly into your overall marketing efforts? Most definitely.
Map out your brand’s news announcements for the year and decide which ones warrant releases. Research keywords and write content that will likely spark interest from both reporters and the targeted readers. Provide enough supporting multimedia that makes it shareable and include relevant links within so Google sees value. Finally, tie in these releases to other integrating marketing techniques (pitching, social media, blog content, etc.) to get the most bang for your buck. When you pull in editorial stories from top tier outlets, they will have a greater overall effect on your SEO strength.
News releases aren’t dead. They’ve just become yet another digital chess piece.