Don’t confuse a press release for something else

Some of the fallout I’m still seeing from the Google search algorithm changes is an increase in the number of businesses approaching me to write press releases.

Good small to medium sized companies, they’ve sadly plummeted down the Google rankings and are looking for ways to build more ‘quality, authority and relevance’ into their marketing. Good move. But here’s the challenge.

For some, press releases are new communication territory and in some cases are being wrongly considered as mere extensions to a company’s internet real estate, advertising billboards even, with a bunch of links back to a troubled website.

Not in keeping with the theme of quality, authority and relevance, I’ve been asked to: ‘write at least 700 words’, ‘include these 10 links’ and as near as dammit, ‘include these keywords in every sentence’. More than that, real news announcements are morphed into blatent corporate ads.

There’s no denying that the availability of unregulated DIY platforms for online PR distribution, SEO and lead generation means that biased, un-newsworthy, link-riddled, keyword-full press releases are issued. My concern though is for the end result.

Call me old-fashioned, but my bullish view is that to achieve the max, the ‘press release’, ‘online press release’, ‘news release’, whatever you prefer to call it, still needs to follow some best practice fundamentals for the desired online coverage and improved rankings to be achieved:

  • It needs to be newsworthy in the eyes of the target reader.
  • The writing should be objective, not promotional or ‘salesy’.
  • The third person must be used, not ‘I’ or ‘we’ (unless in a quote that is…).
  • It should be clear and concise – think 300 words rather than 600.
  • Optimisation: keywords, links and anchor texts etc. shouldn’t be overused.
  • Formatting needs to be correct – headline, subhead, first para, body, boilerplate, contact info, notes to editor etc.

The role of the press release has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, from something that appeals exclusively to an editor or reporter (and his/her readership), to something that appeals to a much broader online audience: editors, consumers, bloggers, social media followers, search and news engines et al.

Of course the extended reach that social media channels and viral marketing can achieve for the humble press release means that it clearly needs to be something that people deem of value and are happy to share.

And if I’ve understood correctly, Google happily prizes more than ever the use of natural language and strong, informational, factual content.

With all that in mind, you won’t go too far wrong following the aged tips offered above – ‘old hat’ or not.