(Updated 9-21-16) Press releases are not as effective as they used to be and there are too many of them. The situation is getting worse. Here is what you need to be aware of.
The top reasons that press releases are losing impact
1. Titles contain unusual punctuation. Many companies use some kind of automated system to receive or socially share articles or releases. Those automated systems (computer programs) don't always handle hyphens, @ symbols, pipes | , ampersands & properly. After being shared a few times, the titles are getting altered slightly and that means the URL link won’t work! Try to avoid any symbols you need to use a Shift key to include. Strip out the all the currency symbols; dollars, Euros, Pounds, Lira, Shekels as well.
2. Subscripts In The Title Are Killers For Social Sharing
The TM and Copyright and Registered symbols choke various automated systems. Every company’s prayer is that their release will be read and shared by thousands. Yet, with hundreds of websites to share on, in dozens of languages, and thousands of software programs handling special characters differently, those subscripts are mangled and then the URL won’t work. Whether you intend it or not, your release will be shared in various languages and it needs to be compatible.
3. Titles are too long. There are two problems with long titles - one is that some social sharing platforms limit the number of characters you can have, and having an image, or someone re-sharing a post - will truncate the title. A second problem is that long titles won't be fully displayed on many websites. Example “Company A and Company B Forming A Partnership For the Betterment Of Payment Integration Systems and Technological Advancement”. Yikes. Twitter allows only 140 characters - do NOT try to use them all. Many software platforms want only 60 characters. You should probably stick to around 60 to 80. A better title for the above would be “Company A and B Partner For Improved Payment Integration”. If you really want to figure this out - count the number of characters that your favorite news websites use for their titles. Or after you publish your press release, figure out where it has been viewed, and see if the title if fully displayed. Remember too, that in our time-compressed world everybody is in a rush. A title that doesn't get to the point quickly may not capture a reader's attention long enough to get them to click and read the article.
4. DO NOT SEND OUT TITLES IN ALL CAPS - It looks like you’re screaming. Unless the news is about the end of the world it’s not important enough for all caps.
5. Choosing the wrong press release service to distribute your release. Press release service companies distribute your release - most let publishers post the release for free. However, some PR distributors charge publishers. (Yes, they get paid on both ends.) I’m speaking of the distributors that provide releases for the top major (and broad) publications that have millions of readers. So you should also distribute the press release via other press release distribution services that are free to publishers - like Globe (formerly Marketwired), PRNewswire, PRLog., among others.
A little trick - if your release is not showing up on a particular website, read the other releases on that website to figure out where they source news releases. Also be sure your release is targeted to the right niches. Press release companies usually allow you to choose a number of segments - like retail, computers, Internet, etc...choose wisely. (Inside tip - lately, one big company that used to charge publishers is now offering them free via a stream that does not fit conventional decoding technologies (that means its useless to publishers like us). Yes, it's free, but no, we can't actually make it work. I suspect that approach is simply to allow their marketing people to say that the releases are downloadable.
6. There are too many press releases being sent out. It is a strategy that is being overused. There are companies with only three employees that publish a press release every day. Unless your company is the size of Apple and you actually have something interesting to share every day, don’t overdue it. At The Point of Sale News, we receive thousands of releases a year. Most come from wire services, although many companies also email them directly to us. If we see the same company name every day, we blacklist it in the automated filter system. We get too many releases as it is, and welcome the chance to trim the influx. By the way - our contact info is at the very bottom of this page and you are welcome to send us press releases directly.
7. Overstuffing of links. A company name does not need five links in one press release. It does not need three, it only needs one. We strip out redundant links, or sometimes, if it is too much work, we don’t publish the release. A release is not the same as an advertisement.
8. Making links blue, bold, underline. These are usually the same releases that overstuff links. One or two are okay. Six or ten are not.
9. Include images. We want pictures. Image size should be small - 100kb max!!! Infographics are generally are too large for downloading on mobile devices at the local coffee shop - so we don't recommend those for press releases. PR agencies are not in the habit of including pictures, but I think that is a throwback to the 1900s. Example: back in the 1980s if you wanted to include an image with a press release, it was extra money because the cost of printing an image in a newspaper was more than the cost of printing text. So, press releases almost never included images. Now, in this millennium, you should include a good image with your release. Maybe two. Yes, it’s more work on your end, but it is effective and will set your release apart. We don’t always use it, but there is a good chance that we will. By the way, a logo is NOT an image that gets any reader excited or intrigued.
10. Make The Title Understandable - we can’t figure out some titles, because the company name is so bizarre. if you have a company name like Flivver, you better have some relationship to the automotive world. A company name like Peel, or Clpp, or Sliver - we have no clue - and with an Inbox full of hundreds of releases, we are not going to be bothered figuring it out. If the company name is Flivver Labels, or Peel Receipt Technology, or Sliver Product Search, well, now we get a sense of whether the press release is relevant to our niche and whether we should run it. Lest you think we’re being picayune, just take a look at the endless feed in your Twitter inbox and see how it is you decide what articles to open. If a person can’t identify whether an article is relevant to them, they are not likely to read it. Maybe your hot technology company just got $20 million in funding, but trust me, 99.9999% of the world still doesn’t know who you are.
11. Don’t rely on press releases to grow your business. As per item 6, it is an over-used strategy. True story - back in the 1990s, there was a software company that spent almost no money on advertising, but had eight PR/marketing people on staff. That company played the strategy well, and they were able to get 50% of the total press exposure for their niche. They built their business and sold it to Microsoft for a little over a billion dollars. Maybe you read a case study about this in business school - well, let go of it and move on to a new strategy - thousands of little companies are formed and funded each year. Incubators are turning them out by boatload. They all send out press releases and the strategy won’t work now.
Press releases have a short lifespan - a day, a week, maybe. Good content has a lifespan of years and a long tail of distribution. When properly written, an article or case study can be "timeless". Good articles will get more and more views over the years. Readers share them, mention them in blogs, and build links to them. The value of good content grows over time. The value of a press release does not.
To conclude, clean up those small details in the press releases your company sends out. Keep your titles clean, simple and unencumbered by anything that requires a shift key to type. Press releases are important, but they will only take you so far. Keep producing them occasionally, but balance your exposure with advertising and high quality content that will make your company visible 24/7.
PS - if you are sending us press releases directly, please do not send PDF files. It is tricky to cut and paste from a PDF especially one that has embedded images, and sidebars - there's too much HTML. Send your releases in text format, right in an email. Or, attaching a Word document is okay too. Images should be attached to the email and not embedded in a document.
Written by Craig L. Aberle
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