“How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” – Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author, and social media and viral marketing expert
Godin, one of the true visionaries in the social media space, has it right – social media represents a disruptive shift in the way individuals and organizations approach and engage with critical audiences such as customers, media and analysts. It is a crowded universe with thousands of access points and new platforms emerging on a daily basis.
With so many potential touchpoints, the signal-to-noise ratio – the volume of useful, relevant content versus the extraneous and superficial – can become a roadblock, preventing essential information, messaging and branding from reaching these key audiences. This is particularly true for public relations vehicles like press releases, as the sheer daily volume of output can quickly overwhelm even the savviest social media user. But with a little resourcefulness and hard work, it is possible for your releases to rise above the noise and become truly notable.
Re-Envisioning the Release
Social media is a force majeure that when leveraged properly, can lift your news, giving it ultimate visibility with your target audience. Yet despite rising numbers of organizations and enterprises realizing they must embrace social media platforms, few are doing so effectively. This lack of success stems from a number of factors – an inherent lack in understanding of the fundamentals of social media, resource constraints, and the limitations conventional communication instruments often face in the unruly, real-time world of social media.
For example, the press release, that old PR workhorse, has long been a staple in corporate communications strategies. Since its inception, the press release process has evolved only slightly to leverage Internet and Web-based technologies: you write it, wire it, blast it and post it. Then, you wait for the media to pick up your news, hoping your audience actually spots it amid the deluge of other releases choking the pipeline.
Not all press releases are created equally, though; some easily rise above the static, garnering significant attention and saturating the ‘net. By deploying these four techniques, your releases too, can transcend the clutter and become social media standouts:
• Follow the S3 rule: Lengthy, rambling press releases don’t play well in the short-attention-span social media universe, so keep your release copy Simple, Short and Sweet. Define the who-what-why before you begin writing, so you have a clear understanding of your target audience, key details to be highlighted, and why your news should matter to readers. Emphasize essential information immediately, minimize acronyms and technical jargon, and steer clear of buzzwords. Be mindful of word count – your release should be fewer than 600 words or no more than one to two pages in length. And don’t forget to provide relevant and appropriate images whenever possible.
• Optimize, optimize: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t just for websites these days. Press releases, media alerts, even tweets, all benefit from SEO techniques – the higher your release appears in organic search results, the more visible it is to the audience. Use free or commercial tools such as Google’s AdWords keyword tool to research germane keywords for your release, but don’t sacrifice content quality for keyword quantity. Embed at least two, but no more than five anchor links in your copy that point to pertinent pages deeper within your website. Provide keyword-rich Alt-Tags, HTML tags with alternate text for images displaying improperly, for all accompanying images, ensuring indexing by search engines.
• Socialize it: Give your release its social media sea legs by structuring in key elements needed for your news to go viral. Headlines should have 100 characters or less, allowing easy retweeting with relevant hashtags. Provide both links to and embeddable HTML code for high-resolution photos, video and podcasts, facilitating simple sharing across news sites, blogs and online forums. Leverage tools such as Bit.ly to provide a pre-shortened, trackable, Twitter-friendly URL for your release. Deliver one-click access to social media networks like Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, Facebook and YouTube via free widgets like AddThis. If the task of socializing your release is too daunting to attempt in-house, consider a subscription to one of the many commercial social media release solutions available today, such as Thomson Reuters’ ONE PR and MarketWire’s Social Media 2.0 Press Release service.
• Don’t forget the follow-up: Even after implementing these suggestions, there’s a good chance that the gaping maw of the social media world will swallow your release whole, and it will languish unnoticed by your target audience. Therefore, it’s up to you to ensure that your news rises above the rest – tweet it, Digg it, Stumble it, Facebook it, blog about it, post a LinkedIn update about it. Do what it takes, within moderation, to give your release that extra oomph needed to succeed.
From Noisy to Notable
To paraphrase the great Seth Godin, never settle and always be remarkable. Social media is one of those things – you either love it or hate it. But whatever your feelings for it, the undeniable truth is that you must embrace social media. By adopting these techniques, your press releases can become an efficient, effective communications vehicle, transitioning from merely adding to the noise to becoming truly notable.