As fans of data-driven marketing, we were inspired to look into this controversy by conducting research to determine whether press releases are still worthwhile.
Standard Press Release Format: How It Changed During 2016
Debates over whether “To press release or not to press release” are still commonplace around the Internet. The PRNEWS.io team has tried to study the present-day benefit of press releases; what structure they have currently; and what you should do to get your press release published in 2016.
Press Release in Media Today
Most PR managers and marketers now regard press release distribution as some kind of outdated practice. The PR focus shifts towards content such as social media pages and blog posts. These types of content drive greater amounts of traffic and are easier to measure, despite the fact that they are more expensive and require more effort. Thus, 86% of marketers believe in the power of social media. B2B companies that run blogs get 67% more leads than others.
In light of this, press releases are receiving less attention than ever. Press releases are primarily associated with advertising. It’s no secret that press releases are one way of reminding customers about a brand or informing an audience about new products. Modern-day readers are more sensitive to PR manipulation. Thus, they seldom see any practical benefit in reading these pieces of content.
Digital media avoids publishing bare press releases if they’re uncertain as to whether they’ll be engaging for their audiences. Sponsored content is “the new black” in terms of publicity and advertising. It’s catchy, useful and beneficial to both the publisher and the brand.
How the Press Release Format Has Changed
Modern press releases bear the same functions as they did a few years ago. They are meant to present news about a company or a product and attract attention. Before the Internet, news releases were more relevant. Newspapers received tons of releases with all the information they needed without having to conduct research. Now, when all the latest news first appears on the company's website, marketers have to avoid stuffing their press releases with information that can be easily found online.
The main thing that has changed is quality. Modern press releases aren’t just batches of news about a company. They’re a message. They’re more of a conversation with an audience. Press releases today are focused on raising brand awareness and creating a friendly environment.
Increased traffic and social media signals (e.g. likes, shares) are mostly futile. They fuel a brand’s ego but don’t show the real interaction with the content and barely increase leads and conversions.
The main signals for press releases today are:
- Interactions boost. Measure open rate for your news pitches;
- Mentions. Check out your mentions on social media, blogs and other media;
- Long-term effects such as traffic growth, pagerank and brand awareness.
Modern-day readers don’t want to read long press releases about a company. They prefer to have the text speak to and about them. That’s why sponsored articles, case studies and longreads with tactile benefit attract more readers than dry-written company news does. In light of this, press releases should be precise and short in terms of information presentation.
To understand how press releases put a slant today and how it affects their format, PRNEWS.io analyzed over 5,000 press releases published through our service throughout 2015-2016. We displayed the main findings in this handy infographic. Let’s take a closer look at the analysis and the changes to the standard press release format in 2016.
Words, words, words
Words are the main means of any text. Companies still use a certain set of words and phrases to persuade a user to read a text or to at least attract their attention to it. It’s no wonder that the most used words in press releases are “company” and “new.” Press releases speak about company news, after all.
It’s noteworthy that the word “customer” takes the last place on this list. It seems like press releases for a company are still the means of self-promotion and pride-nursing. Unlike sponsored articles where the focus is placed on users’ needs and content that will be useful for readers needs to be created, press releases are focused mainly on companies and their egos.
Headlines are the first and the main point of catching a user’s attention and encouraging them to read a text. The wise use of words in headlines may attract users or vice versa—i.e. scare them away. As we can see from the infographic, the length of the press release title has increased by eight characters since last year. This eight-character increase represents an average of one additional word per title.
Brands use more peculiar and expanded headlines to uncover event or announcement contents. To make their headlines catchier, not just informative, companies use longer headlines sacrificing snippet requirements.
SEO and Link Building
A few years ago, news releases were included into the SEO arsenal of most companies. That led to information glut and a decrease in the quality of most press releases. Tons of press releases emerged that weren’t actually newsworthy.
Heavy keywords stuffing and linking aren't so useful anymore. A modern approach to press releases doesn't put many SEO benefits in their distribution. They are more of branding and trust-building sources than SEO tools. However, it’s a huge mistake not to include SEO values in the text.
As we now see, anchors use increases this year. High-quality anchor text helps to attract readers’ attention and encourages them to click on links more often.
With the rise of anchors quality we see that more and more brands use do-follow links. And they use more than one link in the text. There may be a few reasons for that. First, brands need their links to be counted by search engines and leave them open to crawlers. And for that, the brand should add only high-quality links with good anchors to avoid search engine penalties.
We also see the number of links to homepages drop in 2015. This phenomenon can also be connected to the rise of links quality. Brands don’t use the Homepage as the main landing point for their users anymore. They use specially-created landing pages that present specific information about products or events from their press releases. They include links to product pages, blog articles, reviews, etc. to offer their readers more relevant information. All of this indicates the rising level in the quality of press releases in general.
Creating a perfect Press Release: Key Takeaways
As we can see, it’s all about content quality. Press releases are still useful means of communication between a brand and its audience. To create an effective press release today, brands should follow the best strategies. We include in such strategies the following points:
- Pay attention to the focus of a press release. Speak to and about your audience, not your brand only;
- Add more value to the content. Readers should be interested in your news;
- Don’t discard SEO in full, but avoid blatant keyword and links stuffing;
- Use anchors relevant to your content;
- Link only to relevant pages.
Pay attention to users’ needs and offer them the relevant info. This should help you in creating a press release that will definitely be published in 2016.