Editor’s note: Annually, we begin the year by featuring posts by industry thought leaders predicting key trends that will impact the public relations profession. Follow the series and join the discussion by using the hashtag #PRin2016.
In with the old, in with the new
Let’s face it: PR has gotten more complicated. The increased integration of brand campaigns, combined with new challenges in other media buckets (blocked ads anyone?), means PR plays a greater role in the marketing mix. In part, that’s because PR excels as amplifying digital and interactive approaches: social, visual storytelling, content creation.
But where exactly does the little old news release fit into this big, dynamic mix? Is it dead? Or is it alive, kicking butt and taking names?
To gain a solid understanding of the role of news releases in the modern newsroom, PWR New Media went to the target audience: journalists. We surveyed over 220 journalists to find out if and how they use release, what they want from them, what role social plays and more.
Here’s the upshot: News releases aren’t merely alive. When well executed, releases can help brands amplify messages more effectively than ever before. Basically, news releases rock. (Yes, I said that…and I meant it!).
In this sea of newness, the most important thing hasn’t changed: Growing relationships matters, and that means thoughtfulness pays off. If you give journalists what they want, how they want it, and make it easier for journalists to do their jobs, your brand will earn more positive coverage.
Many other familiar guidelines still matter as well: write well, include contact info, target wisely (relevance is key to growing any online relationship), keep subject lines and headlines honest and concise, etc.
But giving journalists what they want isn’t what it used to be. The most relevant, well written news release in the world won’t get you where you want to go if you simply put it on the wires as a plain-Jane, text release. The bar on releases has gotten much higher. And a creative approach to releases now pays off.
Our survey confirmed that journalists rely on PR pros and news releases to do their jobs. A majority of our respondents told us they find releases (very) useful. And asked if they want to hear from PR professionals, even those they don’t know, 84% of journalists said yes.
How do they want to hear from you? Email. Like many of us who are addicted to our own inboxes, journalists dig email: 91% of respondents said that email was their preferred news release distribution method.
What’s growing is their need for releases loaded with transferable content. (This is where the creativity really kicks in.) The five assets rated as the most important by respondents were: relevant backgrounders, bios and supporting info (cited by 82% of journalists as important); high res downloadable images (78%); verbiage that can be cut and pasted from a release (59%); low res images (46%); and relevant infographics (45%). But we’ve seen great success with some very creative approaches such as functional animated maps, pairing guides or graphics; well-designed tweetable pull quotes; illustrated video and more.
Handing journalists easy access to transferable brand content actually increases your brand’s chances of getting pick-up. For example, 74% of journalists stated that they were more likely to cover a news release if it included easy access to hi-res photos. “Links to downloadable photos are very useful,” said one journalist in the survey. “You can’t always reach a company’s communications staff as quickly as needed. Having high-res photography immediately available greatly increases a company’s chance of being featured, as we often need content at odd hours.”
And this just makes sense, because journalists are balancing a decline in staff support with an increase in publication demands. Seventy-five percent of our respondents said they are now responsible for creating online content even though the majority named print as their dominant medium.
That’s why savvy communications teams are crafting and sharing visually engaging, transferable content with the media. Digital releases received via email make it easy for journalists to find, grab and reuse content. And handing journalists content is a great way to amplify a brand story. PWR New Media tracks metrics for the many releases we create and send on behalf of our clients and find that releases rich in visual and multimedia assets that tell a compelling brand story get more traction, especially when brands enable the media to easily grab and reuse the content.
It’s worth noting that less than 1% of journalists said they prefer to receive news releases via social media or traditional wire services. But they are using social and search, along with their own inboxes, for research: Our respondents cited search (83%), their own inboxes (67%), and social media sites (47%) as the top three places they mine for story ideas. And while email is their preferred method of communication, social is also a great way to stay in touch. The survey found that journalists keep an eye on social sites for story ideas: Facebook (79%), Twitter (63%) and LinkedIn (53%) were the top cited sites.
Finally, highly effective news releases aren’t just delivered to targeted inboxes, loaded with useful content. They are also well branded. Turns out, journalists are people too—they ‘re visually wired and respond to well designed, well organized releases. And, the audience for a news releases goes beyond the media: News releases now reach influencers, stakeholders, curious consumers and customers, and the socially active looking for news to share with their networks. In the world of merged media, branding matters. (So brand your brand, not your vendors!)
For more on our recent survey, you can download PWR New Media’s whitepaper on the complete results at http://pwrnewmedia.com/resources/journalist-survey-2016/ .
Join Malayna Evans on March 22 for her upcoming training session, “Visual Content and Media Relations”