The first press release was literally a train wreck!
In 1906, tragedy struck a small, midwestern town when a passing train leapt the tracks, killing several local residents and injuring quite a few of the train’s passengers. It’s a sad tale, but one that could have all too easily been forgotten, faded into the mists of history, if not for a man by the name of Ivy Lee. Mr. Lee was moved by the story of this train and its unwitting victims, and shared his concerns with others by writing the world’s very first press release, thereby introducing a tool that would drastically effect how information is shared across every known industry. Today, most press releases aren’t quite so tragic or impactful. However, thanks to the incredible technological leaps since Mr. Lee’s time, the modern press release can target influencers, analysts, financial professionals, the general population or the media itself, in a myriad of exciting and powerful forms.
It’s all about relationships
Effective PR is all about relationships, and a well written, targeted press release is just one of the ways you can share information with your core audience. So how to best utilize this classic tool in today’s marketplace? An effective press release exudes purpose. Sure, your press release informs the media of crucial, breaking news, upcoming events, and your latest successes, but it should always carry an additional motive: broadening your audience. A strong press release will certainly inform, but thanks to the internet and our 24hour news cycle, merely informing is not enough.
Over the last decade, the traditional press release has died a slow, rather quiet death. Technology and the industries it touches are evolving at speeds that no written document can match. That means the information in a press release could be considered ‘old news’ by the time it is carried and disseminated in the traditional manner. The modern press release must shift and change. It must maintain forward motion, incorporate technology in a pleasing, audience focused manner, and utilize the latest thinking in the worlds of reputation management, customer engagement, branding and visibility.
Is all of that possible? Or will the press release breathe its last, here in the early days of the twenty-first century?
Thankfully, this is no funeral, but a rebirth, an evolution. Not an end, but a new beginning. Social networking, virtual newsrooms, multimedia integration and social listening are now indispensable tools you can integrate in your press release. Local brands, international conglomerates and every organization in between can reap the rewards that arise from offering more to their audiences. In fact, not only can you better serve your audience, but you can expand well beyond who you thought your target audience was in the first place.
By tapping into the community of sophisticated and informed influencers eager to track and digest the latest news, products and services, you can grow your target audience well beyond its current boundaries, impacting new demographics, and turning potential connections into customers. Keep in mind, however, that these influencers craft their opinions based on information gleaned from trusted sources. If they jumped at every tidbit that popped up online, they would swiftly lose their audience. Press releases provide that trust, and therefore hold a great deal of power.
How is the press release managing to remain relevant in the information age?
Why is this still the case? How is the press release managing to remain relevant in the information age, with endless data accessible on the nearest touchscreen? You need look no further for the answer than these three reasons: search, video, and social media. Advanced technology has allowed the press release to evolve, and to reach a larger, more elegantly targeted audience than ever. The traditional press release may well be a thing of the past, a dying relic. The manner in which your breaking news is delivered, however, on message and into the eyes and ears of your desired demographic, is transforming into a new and even more valuable form.
Brands are recognizing these industry wide changes, and now continuously utilize social media to remain relevant and craft a compelling narrative. Social media offers anyone the opportunity to become a journalist, to influence their friends and associates, to innovate, and even to impact widespread social, political or cultural change. Your businesses must align with the new reality, and incorporate these tools when generating a press release. It’s no longer an option, but an urgent necessity. The top priority for a successful brand is to find a tribe of influencers, nurture the members, and earn their trust and love. Your brand has to adapt to survive, and that must extend to your press releases. So, how should you jump start the evolution of your press releases? Here are some facts to help you bring Mr. Lee’s favorite tool into the modern world.
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So how is the new PR different from the old PR?
• More than 2.4 billion people are online, and 70% of them use the internet every single day. That’s a massive number, but the internet is still very much like the gold rush of the Wild West. Eight people use the internet for the first time every single second. These numbers prove that any audience you can conceive of is online, and that diverse customer base is ready and waiting to be discovered. Finding your niche, target audience, and base of influencers is imperative to your brand and your press release, so tools such as social listening research will help you map out your persona and marketing strategies, ensuring your press release is read by the right people. You can’t simply drop a press release into the pipeline and expect it to be effective.
The traditional press release is changing forms in order to maintain relevancy.
• The traditional press release is changing forms in order to maintain relevancy. Now it’s all about digital, and utilizing compelling video content. Brands that don’t take advantage of this technology risk losing their voice. Today’s customer wants stories to be told visually. They’re not reading books, they’re playing interactive games. They want connection, and without that visual tiein, your story may be deemed irrelevant. Worse yet, you risk losing the connection with the audience you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. Incorporate visuallyappealing videos or attention grabbing infographics into your press releases. With a limited amount of time to make an impact, you have to go big or go home.
What about the generational differences?
• What about the generational differences? Not only has technology usage skyrocketed, but so has the skill level of the average user. Your audience now understands sophisticated digital marketing and social media tools. They know how to use these features to their advantage. Brands with marketing strategies that rely on traditional methods may end up last in the race to produce viable and relatable information. Social listening is just one opportunity to tap into the minds of internet users from all generations. Uncovering the needs and desires of these users is an important step in shaping your best and most effective marketing strategy and press release.
Brands must offer stories jam packed with value
• Brands must offer stories jam packed with value, but they also must include an actionable step. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” The traditional press release is nothing but an amalgamation of words, but those words must lead your core audience into some sort of action. Most brands simply talk about the who, what, where and when, what they’ve been up to and how it is going. That’s no longer enough. What is your ultimate goal? How do you want your audience to interact in return? Always use your press release to invite the reader to take some sort of action. Even something as simple as “Call Now,” “Visit Us Here,” or “Watch This Followup Video” will provide a much greater probability that your audience will take an actionable step that benefits your business.
Successful brands make the time to understand their audience
•Successful brands make the time to understand their audience, and encourage that audience to share their story. Once you have established your tribe, you want them to help spread the word about your brand to others. Sharing the latest and greatest company information creates that needed buzz, and reaches potential clients or customers who may not be on your radar. However, you need to know who the best influencers are for your particular story. With the right influencers reaching the right tribe, you’ll notice an immediate impact in the quality and quantity of response to your next press release. Finding the right tribe is like hitting the jackpot.
Can the press release still be relevant for brands in today’s world?
So, can the press release still be relevant for brands in today’s world? It is not a question of if it’s possible, but how you can most effectively deliver the information. As with any quality piece of content, it is necessary for brands to create a story that the reader, tribe and influencers can identify with while presenting it to them in a variety of compelling formats. The first step to tackling the best delivery of a press release is understanding current technology. When you embrace all of the tools in the modern toolbox, you transform the dusty, old press release of yesteryear into one of the most effective allies you will ever have.
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