Creative Uses for a News Release
I just finished reading a great article on the blog Public Relations Princess about alternatives for sending out your news release. The gist of the article is that after writing a news release it’s just too easy these days to put a list together and blast out the release via email. The article author, Claire Celsi, says it’s lazy PR. I couldn’t agree more if I tried.
Once upon a time, there wasn’t really another way to do things. Back in the day (wow .. I really sound old) you actually used a fax machine to send the release, but other than that the tactic was the same. You blasted it out, started making phone calls, and hoped for the best. These days, however, we have alternatives to bludgeoning the media with releases. Here’s a look at the list of suggestions from the PR Princess:
- Pitch email (sending a customized email rather than just the release)
- Make a website posting (preferably a blog post)
- Send a Tweet
- Send a Facebook message
- Pick up a phone (call the reporter rather than just sending the release)
- Offer to meet the reporter in person
While I consider one of these a dead or dying PR tactic, I’m in favor of anything that teaches public relations people strategies to avoid creating the news release spam that journalists complain about so frequently.
I’d like to add a few more suggestions to the list:
- You can re-purpose these releases as part of a monthly e-newsletter to your clients and employees. It will let them know what you’re up to.
- Create a custom Facebook landing page (new service EndGame PR is now offering — look for an announcement soon) and list releases there, along with special offers for Facebook “fans”.
- Post on a news release distribution service, and be sure to include a link back to your (or your client’s) website. It’s a great way to spread your release around the web, and it’s good for SEO too.
It’s good to be a PR person in our social media age!
Now Public Relations Actually Relates with the Public
I was thinking yesterday about some of the calls I used to take when I worked in corporate communications for a national retailer. Most of the time when my phone rang, a reporter was on the other end. Every so often, however, a customer with a complaint would call. Customer complaints weren’t really my department, but I would listen and try to help if I could. Quite often, I would have to transfer them to customer support. At times, this caused the customer to become irritated. I would calmly tell them that I worked in public relations, and I needed to send them to someone who could more effectively handle customer issues. On more than one occasion, this led to the customer to say something along the lines of, “You’re in public relations, and I’m a member of the pubic … why can’t you handle my problem?”
GoDaddy Fails Crisis Communications Test
I’m a huge fan of WordPress for building web sites. I’m also a fan of GoDaddy, although I know many people don’t share my opinion. If you haven’t heard, WordPress and GoDaddy are very much in the tech news these last couple of days after a massive weekend hack attack that infected untold numbers of WordPress-based sites that are hosted on GoDaddy.
To read more about what happened, check out the coverage on the WPSecurityLock.com blog.
This hack hit me particularly hard, affecting five client sites — three that were live and two more that were being built. Fixing the problem was time-consuming but not terribly difficult once I figured out the problem. I’m not writing this post to compete with other coverage of what happened or how it happened. What interests me from a PR perspective is GoDaddy’s response to this attack. Here’s the statement from them that has been posted in many places:
Measures are in place to protect the overall security of the shared hosting server on which your website resides. The compromise of your account is outside of the scope of security that we provide for you. Virus scans are performed on the content that is hosted, but they may not pick up everything, largely due to the fact that hackers tend to upload custom scripts which are not picked up by traditional malware scanners. However, if a virus is detected, you will be notified. The overall security of your password and the content within your account is your responsibility, as password compromises and compromises due to scripting can only be prevented by you.
The PR Circle of Life
I’m probably not blogging anything that hasn’t been blogged before when I type this, but I’ll type it anyhow: There are more tools available to the PR professional now than at any point in the industry’s history. You probably think I’m referencing social media and social networking. I am, but there’s so much more to it. And, it all connects in a way that precious few public relations pros seems to realize.
If you look on the EndGame PR services page, you’ll see a pretty long list. There’s a reason for that. I want to be able to do everything I can to help my clients. I’m talking about not only social media, social networking and traditional PR tactics such as media relations, but also search engine optimization (SEO), web content creation, and even web design. Imagine these skills and tactics as part of a never-ending “circle of life”. Quality media relations campaigns can equal links back to a web site, which helps search rankings, which in turn can help a social media audience find you, which in turn can help you promote your quality web content, which can add links back to a web site, which can help SEO …. lather, rinse, repeat. All of these strategies and tactics work well together, and should not be stuck in silos, as they are in so many organizations.
Perhaps the best part of thinking about PR in this way is that you’re not reliant upon one single tactic. If your media relations campaign isn’t going as well as expected, perhaps another portion of the “circle of life” will kick in and help you.
While I’m not suggesting that all PR professionals should know what a 301 redirect is or what to do with the .htaccess file (I do, but I’m a geek), they should know the basics of SEO. They should also know how (or have access to someone who does) to create a basic web video. They should also have the writing skills to be able to write an entertaining and thoughtful blog post. Feel free to judge whether I possess that last one or not .. I won’t assume.
I am going to assume, however, that most everyone reading this knows at least a little bit about social media. You ARE reading a blog, after all. Not near as many have knowledge of the SEO basics. Here are a few, with an example at the end of how the circle of life works:
- Keywords: The basic strategy for figuring out which keywords to use is to think of what words you WANT web searchers to use on Google in order to find your content. Then, work those words into your title and copy (in a natural way, please .. no keyword stuffing). If you want to get more precise about which keywords to use, try playing with the Google Keyword Tool. Most important, however, is that you include those keywords in the headlines and copy of your news releases and other online content.
- Backlinks are king: One of the most important things you can do to improve your site’s search ranking WITHOUT digging into web site code, is increase the number of other sites linking to your site. From a PR perspective, this can be done two ways. First, create original content that people will want to link to. In other words, people will enjoy it and want to blog about it or post about it on Twitter or Facebook. Another tool in the SEO PR toolbox is online news release distribution. Check out my sort-of-annual review of online release distribution sites for more information about this.
- Promote your content on social networking sites: Obviously this isn’t ALL you should be doing on Twitter, Facebook, Buzz and all of the others, but it’s one of the things you should be doing. Obviously, the more people who know about your unique content, the more people who could potentially link back to it from their sites. See?! Circle of life!
What it comes down to is that PR pros need to learn everything they can about these tools, even to the point of teaching themselves a little bit of HTML and even how to use CSS. These skills come in handy much more than you would expect, and can improve the service provided to clients or employers.
And, don’t blame me if you walk away from this blog post humming an Elton John song from a certain Disney movie. That’s your problem, and I accept no responsibility for it. It’s less annoying than Hakuna Matata, at least!
It’s About Time, McDonald’s
From Mashable, this headline:
McDonald’s Adds Free Wi-Fi to the Menu
I wrote a post on this very blog (well, it had a different design at the time, and maybe a different name, but it had the same URL anyhow) nearly THREE YEARS AGO, laying out a case for why McDonald’s needed to get rid of its $2.95 wi-fi fee. And, it appears the reason they switched is the exact reason I laid out in my post. Here’s what Mashable says:
…McDonalds is hoping to become a hang-out spot of the coffee shop variety — it also plans to start selling frappes and smoothies mid-2010. And given the fact that coffee chains like Starbucks charge customers to surf while they sip, the idea doesn’t seem all that pie-in-the-sky.
…and here’s what I said in my post, On Wi-Fi Hotspots and McDonald’s, on February 10, 2007:
Free web access [...] would open McDonald’s to an entirely different set of customers. If you walk into a Panera Bread Company store in the middle of the day, you’ll see that it’s crawling with business people who are eating and getting a little work done. McDonald’s could combine cheaper food with free Internet, and draw a bunch of those businesspeople in. Parents could even get some work done while their kids catch syphilis from those hamster tube play areas.
It’s nice when a big company reacts to a reasoned argument from a PR guy like me ;)