Earlier this month, Ragan Communications released poll findings on the declining standing of press releases. Only 49 percent of the professional communicators polled think press releases are "as useful as ever." Given the inroads of social media and other market forces on PR, that's not a surprising finding. We doubt that alert communicators have been placing primary reliance on news releases for getting the word out for some time.
Not only are news releases being overshadowed by social media, Ragan and PollStream found, they haven't been treated well by their creators, the corporations.
"Companies have become too self-protecting in their releases," said one respondent. "Everything has been tossed into the legal CYA blender, and what comes back is bland and over-processed."
There's irony there, in that social media is even less tolerant of a cushioned approach to communicating. The word certainly seems to be getting around that the way to relate is to relate -- mix it up and gain understanding and presence in the resulting dialogue. That's a healthy trend. News releases still have utilitarian value, in light of SEC disclosure rules, but greater reliance should be placed on closer-up, franker ways of engaging our publics.
To get every ounce of clout from news releases, it's critical for them to be search engine friendly. He are some factors to be mindful of in that regard:
Get more from Press Releases
Press releases can be more than a vehicle for distributing messages. If optimized, it can also serve to pull journalists (and even prospects) to the content hosted on a website or within a newsroom.
To optimize your press content for search visibility, remember to:
Research and identify target keyword phrases
Optimize the release for 1-2 phrases
Include a Call to Action (link to landing page, so you can track activity)
Develop and Optimize Landing Pages
Post to Newsroom
Pitch to Media
Distribute via RSS
Leverage Wire Service Distribution
Here are 7 tips specific to Press Release Optimization:
1. Think up and to the left
2. Optimize for people first, search engines next
3. Use keywords in Title, Subhead, body
4. Don’t obsess over keyword density
5. Aim for a 500 word release to use target keyword 2-4 times
6. Use keywords in links to company sites
7. Add media: images, podcasts, video
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.