I saw today that someone on Linked In asked if press releases are dead. As usual, it sparked quite a debate just as it has among PR pros for years. (Google “news release is dead” to see one such debate, which includes the notion that Facebook Walls have replaced the release.) With that in mind, I figured I’d toss out my usual two cents on the subject.
Allow me to state unequivocally: the press release is not dead, quite the opposite, in fact. A solid release can be one of the most useful tools you have if you think strategically and write efficiently.
The value of a good release:
They can deliver significant SEO in driving traffic to your site.
They have a long shelf life within search engines and aggregate sites.
They are still widely used by vertical trades.
They are sometimes reprinted in their entirety, ensuring your message gets out (particularly online).
If your news is of national or international significance, you will get the word out fast.
Consider that a web search can return sites featuring customer complaints. The more you can stock engines with positive news via releases, the better first impression you can make.
A steady stream of releases ensures spider-friendly content that will enhance your page rank.
Online releases can include rich media (videos, podcasts, etc.) which will only further optimize your place among engines and get your message out.
It’s not just for media anymore. Through search engines, consumers now have access to press releases, especially if your headline is “findable.”
Price is no longer a factor. The days of BW and PRN owning all release distribution are gone. Free distribution sites like PRWeb, PR.com and 24/7 are just as effective.
It’s in the way that you use it.
We’ve all heard the adage that people don’t read stories, they read headlines. Well, the same is true for a search engine. A good release has a “findable” headline, using only the words that give you a postive ranking. Tools like Google AdWords Key Word and WordTracker are very useful in ensuring you are optimizing every phrase.
Keeping it brief is more critical than ever as some search engines will not accept a release containing more than 500 words (and reporters will appreciate it too!
The same is true for links. Too many links in a release could be considered spam and will subsequently be denied by search engines. A good rule of thumb is one link for every one hundred words.
Of course, it’s important to remember that a press release is merely a tool and it will never replace one-on-one pitching. Media want a scoop; they don’t want the same news that everyone else is getting. Oftentimes careful, targeted media pitching can be more effective than a mass distributed release. It all depends on the news, the target audience, timing and your end goal.
But for now, I say long live the optimized release!