Saturday, July 25, 2009

Press Releases: Stop The Presses!

Website Press Releases:

The Latest; The Fastest

Google “press release” and the search engine will cough up 1.3 million links. “Some of them want to use you. Some of them want to be used by you.” (Annie Lennox, the Eurhythmics). But it’s true. Some of these online press release syndicators want to use you. They want your money. Others want to be used by you. Again, they want your money.

Online press release distribution is spotty at best. The PR syndicator is only as good as the extent and taxonomy of its database. And you can certainly ask the company rep for examples of recent releases sent out by the company. You can also check to see if these press releases are having the desired viral effect by using Google Analytics to see how the site performed before and after the release to the media.

This isn’t an indictment of press releases as a means of getting the word out. Indeed, well-written, informational PRs do get picked up. But here’s the thing. Newsletters are usually narrowly focused. Just a quick search of the web before writing this revealed that Alcoholics Anonymous just released a press release. So did a custom motorcycle shop that just launched its web site.

The topics of the press releases have limited interest within a very narrow vertical market, in this case recovering alcoholics and Harley lovers (or both, maybe?). So, the company releasing the press release will tell you that it’ll reach 100,000,000 web sites. However, only 150 sites will actually pick up the release and publish it. Now, that’s not bad, don’t get me wrong. That’s 150 links back to your site. You’ll also see a spike in site traffic, though it’s unlikely that they’ll be beating down the digital doors.

In any case, yes press releases should be a part of any web site marketing campaign. However, to make the biggest impact on the reader, and to encourage the reader to perform a desired action, here are some tips to make your press release stand out from the digital deluge of garbage that criss-crosses the web each day. You want to get noticed. Here’s how:

1. Use a banner to catch attention. An all-text PR already looks boring so add some eye bling at the top of the page.

2. Make the press release interactive. Be sure to include embedded links back to key pages of your site. That’s one of the reasons you distribute the press release – to drive traffic, so make it easy as a click to find you.

In fact, provide a couple of links back to your site. Place one at the top of the page so it can be seen easily by readers. Then embed a link back to your site within the corpus of the press release.

3. Provide an RSS and podcast link so that other site owners can pick up the PR as they aggregate the morning news. One click and you’re picked up by RSS aggregators for broadcast over numerous RSS feeds. Cheap marketing. Viral all the way.

4. Use quotes. NOT testimonials. We’ve talked plenty in this blog about the cheesiness of fake testimonials. Testimonials have lost whatever little credibility they had long before the creation of the W3. Testimonials have been around since you received your last copy of Look. (It was a magazine, kids.)

Quotes, on the other hand, have attribution. “Scariest book I read all year” – Stephan King, Award Winning Author. Now that has clout. If the King of the horror book genre thinks it’s scary, it must be pretty scary.

So, note the difference. Get quotes from credible sources willing to lend their names to your projects, your services or products. “ProGrow is the best protein shake I ever tasted.” Chuck Norris, movie star. That’s going to move some of the protein powder you’ve got stored in the garage.

5. Allow readers to print out your press release by offering a printer friendly version. Make the file available in Word doc and Adobe pdf files. The doc will eliminate non-essential images (you decide) while the pdf version is a snapshot of your newsletter, suitable for framing, or at least posting on the office bulletin board.

6. Enable readers to leave comments. This converts (somewhat) your press release into a blog post. A simple cut and paste lets the blogmaster post your PR and allows others to comment on your opinions or other content.

The whole point is to have the release read by as many people in as many different formats as possible – from directly through a browser on the computer monitor to a print out on the refrigerator of a million homes. The more accessible the press release, the more it will be accessed and USED.

7. Let yourself get pinged. Social book marking sites like,, and other user-reviewer sites can take a ho-hum press release and quickly turn it into a web phenomenon. Go to and take a look at the number of pings (viewer or reader approvals) the topmost articles receive. It’s not unusual for an article to get pinged hundreds, thousands of times.

Readers visit digg and other social book marking sites to find the best (or at least most read) content on a variety of topics. To be “pingable,” you need iconic links back to the book marking site. Then, with a click, a reader can digg your press release, encouraging others to take a peek.

8. Add a tag cloud to your press release. A tag cloud reveals how readers describe your article in terms of content. A press release from mainframe maker IBM might contain the following in its tag cloud: mainframe, IBM, American business, business solutions, mainframe, mainframe software….and so on.

A tag cloud performs a couple of important functions. First, it helps you refine your keyword list by getting direct marketing data from PR readers. Second, it provides links to other content, some of which may be contained in your site’s article archives, driving more traffic.

This also introduces you to the latest terms, buzz words, jargon and other ephemeral data that you can employ until the next buzz word starts making the rounds.

9. Provide complete contact information at both the beginning and end of the release including: contact name and title, telephone, email address, website address, physical address, Skype user name and any other useful information that enables web reporters quick access to quick answers.

Often, a press release won’t run as a press release. It may be rewritten by a web reporter (perfectly legal) and run as an article or blog post somewhere. If you provide complete contact information for these web reporters, you stand a much better chance of still getting a mention or even an embedded text link so keep in touch.

10. Indicate the release date of the press release. It’s not uncommon for press releases to reach a webmaster’s desk several weeks before the anticipated release date. This gives site owners a heads-up to save some space for this new content to be released two weeks hence.

There are other things you can do. Add pictures throughout, even though many people won’t be able to see them with their browsers set the way they are. Those pictures will show up as a pdf download, that’s for sure.

Edit the content so it doesn’t sound like a sell piece. Create an informational press release that just happens to mention your web site or company name six times.

Get the darn thing proofread. Ask your spouse, your kid, your coworker or hire a professional proofreader. Nothing says a lack of quality control than a press release loaded with typos and poor grammar.

As you might imagine, the list goes on but these are the key points to get maximum return for the cost of distributing the piece.

One final suggestion. Be sure to add a couple of “test” sites to the syndicator’s database to make sure you actually receive your own newsletter. Any company can say “Reach 1,000,000 readers in 24 hours” but can they prove it?

No. And that’s why you have to be very careful if you plan to shell out a few thousand to a press release syndicator that makes promises it can’t keep.

Life is hard enough for the start-up or small site owner without a bunch of grey-hats providing sub-par services for lots of money, so ask questions. If your own database is large enough, self-syndicate. This way you know who’s getting the release.

Then, build a press release with eye appeal, quality information, multiple formats and links back to your site.

That’s a press release that’s going to do what it’s supposed to. Draw attention to you, your products and your website.

Hey, if you don't know a good press release from pressed ham, drop me a line. Don't waste your money flaring content spam. Quality counts, especially in press releases, so get picked up. It ain't rocket science.

No comments: