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Rebirth: The press release in the digital age

With digital PR, social media and PR/advertising blends being the talk of the industry, it may seem like one of PR’s oldest friends, the press release, has been left for dead. I disagree. Just like newspapers have had to embrace digital, so have press releases and other PR tactics. In this case, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

While technology doth taketh, it also giveth. Digital media have created a lot more noise, making it harder for brands to break through the clutter, but they’ve also presented a host of new and more measurable ways for companies to bring their news to prospective customers. Follow these guidelines to make sure your press release is heard and seen in today’s digitally-driven world.

 

OLD: Writing as a brand ambassador

NEW: Writing as a customer ambassador

The days of writing press releases from a brand advocate perspective are over. Readers simply don’t have the time – or enthusiasm – to read about a product launch that simply lists product features, with no story that gets people to understand the real-world benefits of those features.

That’s where a customer ambassador approach comes in. Here’s an example. One of our clients, Daikin Applied, released a groundbreaking product, Intelligent Equipment, which was the first commercial HVAC product to be integrated with the Internet of Things (IoT). Rather than just focus on the features of the system, we wrote a press release that talked about the impact it’d have on building owners’ and facility managers’ bottom lines, and explained how specifying engineers’ jobs would be simplified. The press release was issued at the AHR Expo 2015, which arguably was the most successful tradeshow ever, from a media relations standpoint, for Daikin Applied. News coverage resulting from the show reached more than 73 million readers. Moral of the story: Focus your press releases on customer benefits and you will see great results.

 

OLD: Blocks of text

NEW: Shorter sentences + visuals

Press releases are formulaic at heart. Headline. Lead paragraph. Company quote. Supporting information. Yada, yada. Boilerplate. However, that doesn’t mean they should be confined by the formula. Write for people first (not the formula).

People rarely, if ever, read releases on actual paper anymore. What’s more, studies have confirmed people prefer reading shorter sentences and bulleted lists, as they’re easier to digest via phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

Breaking up text and including appealing visuals helps draw readers in – and keep them there. Not only do succinct sentences and paragraphs make for easier reading, but images allow readers to take a mental break from consuming text. After all, we process images 60,000 times faster than text, according to HubSpot. Eye-catching pictures also help quickly capture a readers’ attention and can add further context and understanding.

 

OLD: ABC Launches XYZ

NEW: Compelling headlines optimized for digital and social media

Unless you’re Apple, it’s not newsworthy to simply announce a new product. Thousands of businesses do so every single day. So what makes yours so special? How will it improve lives? Streamline production? Don’t make readers dig for the most interesting information. Tell them in your headline. If you want people to pay attention, give them the who, what, when, where and why in 140 compelling characters or less. Use active voice and don’t bury the lead. Finally, make sure your headline is optimized for social media and search engines (meaning that’s it’s both shareable and searchable) by using language that’s both self-explanatory and catchy.

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