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For more than 100 years, PR professionals have relied on press releases as a key element of their communications toolkit.
But in today’s increasingly competitive media environment, are press releases still an effective tool for amplifying a brand’s message and generating earned media? Absolutely. When it’s done well, combining innovative strategies with the foundational principles of the PR business: building trustworthy, mutually beneficial relationships with journalists and other members of the media.
Consider the following findings from Cision’s 2023 State of the Media Report, a survey of more than 3,000 journalists worldwide:
- Press releases are cited as the resource journalists want to receive the most from brands and PR professionals
- Journalists ranked press releases No. 1 when asked about the resources they find most useful resource for generating content ideas
- Press releases were also cited among the top three resources journalists trust most for validating information
If you haven’t updated your press release strategy or approach lately, then there’s a good chance your brand is missing out on valuable earned media coverage.
Getting what you give
A reporter’s introduction to your brand’s story often occurs when your press release lands in their inbox. With that in mind, ask yourself: Do my releases create the kind of first impression that would make a journalist eager to connect with me or learn more about the story? We know that 50% of journalists receive 100 or more press releases every week, so offering them real value is a must if you want to stand out from the crowd.
Make sure that every press release you send:
- Has a concise headline that includes action words (e.g. “reveals,” “shows,” “announces,” etc.) and clearly articulates the who, what and why
- Includes compelling, high-quality visuals: photos, videos, infographics or data visualizations
- Features content that adds credibility and validation: unique data or research, testimonials or quotes from experts or executives
- Is formatted strategically (e.g. employs bullets, subheads, bolded text and short paragraphs) to break up the text and make the information easy to consume
- Does not have any jargon, clichés or “marketing speak”
- Points to a clear call to action, with links back to the brand’s website, press room or social media accounts
- Includes a brand logo to reinforce brand awareness — and makes it easy for the media outlet to include in their coverage
Additionally, your press release must be relevant to the audience of the journalist who sees it.
Making multimedia matter
To ramp up your press release’s appeal and make it easier for journalists to cover your brand story, nothing beats engaging multimedia. In fact, research shows that reach and engagement rates are significantly higher for press releases that feature images, especially if they include more than one.
This is not surprising, since the vast majority of journalists (87%) have used multimedia in their published stories in the last year, according to Cision’s 2023 State of the Media Report, and 27% say that including multimedia elements in a pitch or press release “makes their jobs easier.”
If that’s not enough to convince you of multimedia’s sway, 18% of journalists say they are more likely to consider a pitch when it includes multimedia (and an additional 37% would consider it, depending on the type of multimedia).
Brands looking to extend their reach and potential impact should consider visual formats for press release content. Whether developed in-house or in collaboration with a media production company, a short-form social video version of your press release is perfect for distribution through web and social channels — owned, earned or paid.
Another innovative tool for PR professionals to reach target audiences, drive engagement and promote their brand narratives is the multichannel news release (MNR). Visual-forward content with multimedia components, such as videos, interactive charts and infographics can be published as web pages and syndicated to targeted media outlets and journalists — like a wire service, but for multimedia storytelling.
A well-crafted press release includes pithy, eye-catching elements such as quotes, short videos or infographics that can easily be repurposed, as needed, into effective messaging that can be shared on a wide range of communications channels.
Investing in long-term relationships
Establishing credibility and trust are paramount to forging and maintaining connections with journalists and media outlets.
Desk editors and writers don’t just appreciate it when a PR professional has done their homework to understand their audience and what they find relevant, it’s the No. 1 way communicators can make their jobs easier (and thus, more likely to want to cover your story), according to the 2023 State of the Media Report.
Whether employing a well-maintained media management database, reviewing a contact list that’s been used in the past or hunting and pecking online to see who has covered which topics for which outlets, the more relevant your outreach, the more likely that you will improve your success rate.
Partnering with a distribution platform that offers sophisticated media monitoring technologies and expert strategic consulting can help PR practitioners to spend less effort on targeting those most likely to engage with your brand immediately or in the future, and more time on cultivating those important relationships.
There’s no doubt that the press release remains a powerful tool for the modern PR practitioner. A well-executed release featuring impactful multimedia content that’s distributed strategically can draw attention to your brand story and be a significant way to reach audiences that matter.
To read the 2023 State of the Media report, visit Cision.
Faye Godfrey is vice president of content services at Cision PR Newswire, with a background in digital communications, marketing and publishing. She leads the Content Services division, bringing brand messages to life through content creation and distribution.
[Illustration credit: cision]