Website Traffic: Do Press Releases Still Work?

Website Traffic: Do Press Releases Still Work?

Publicity is the notice or attention that mainstream media gives you. Today, the media covers multiple channels. From television to newspapers to Twitter, the media can talk about you and share your story and drive traffic back to your website.

Publicity, press, and public relations are somewhat synonymous. They are all approaches to getting media coverage and creating a buzz about your business, within your target market. They are also often overlooked by small and medium sized businesses, who feel the marketing tactic is only beneficial to big business. Maybe you've felt that way too?

The truth is that one of the ways that big businesses become successful is because when they were smaller, they leveraged all the marketing tactics available to them including publicity.

Is Publicity Just Another Word for a Press Release?

No, publicity is not the same thing as a press release. A press release is a tool that you can use to get publicity. However, there are other ways to get publicity as well. For example, a video can go viral and get publicity for your company. You might take a controversial stance on an issue in your industry and get media attention and publicity that way. That being said, when coupled with a strong content marketing strategy, a press release is one of the best ways to get publicity.

What’s a Press Release? 

A press release is an announcement of news. Your news might be an event you’re hosting, research that you’ve gathered, a new product or service, an award or just about any other announcement that your audience will care about. The goal in a press release is to pitch your story idea to the media in the hopes that it will capture their attention and they’ll “pick it up” and cover the “story.” Getting newspaper, magazine, radio, or television coverage can have a dramatic impact on your business and a press release helps you reach a broad audience, which also contains your target market.

Do Press Releases Still Work?

With newspaper readership on the decline, you might think that the press release’s heyday has come and gone. However, in reality, the increased speed at which information travels online has made press releases more useful than ever.

Editors of offline publications are busy people. They spend a great deal of time searching for news stories and assigning journalists to write them. Press releases can save them time by alerting them to potential news stories. Press releases that are written properly can be published as-is. This is especially helpful if the editors have page-space to fill and are on a tight deadline.

Those who edit online publications also have tight schedules. If they receive a good press release via email, they can simply cut and paste for an instant story. Even if they decide to add to it, most of the work is already done for them.

Many bloggers like press releases, too. Mainstream bloggers use press releases in the same way as media professionals. Personal and part-time bloggers often use them when they’re short on time but still want to give their readers content on a regular basis.

Why is Publicity Better for My Business?

Publicity is free. Unlike an advertisement, which you have to pay for, publicity costs you nothing. The press release needs to be written and there will be some time spent building relationships with the media and pitching your story idea. You may distribute your press release to get it into the hands of as many people as possible, but many of those distribution tactics are free as well.

Publicity builds brands and reputations. When a journalist mentions your company, and shares your solutions with their readers, you gain exposure to a new audience. This audience becomes aware of who you are and how you can help them.

Credibility gets a boost. Like word of mouth marketing, publicity also gives you a big boost in credibility. Consumers tend to trust and value the unbiased information that a journalist or reporter shares. If a journalist writes an article and quotes you in it, you have some earned credibility. You’ve become a resource of information for that journalist and for the consumers who read the article. You’re an expert.

One of the most common misconceptions people have about press releases is that they’re difficult to write. There is a format to adhere to and your audience is different. You’re not writing to your customer, you’re writing for the media. The goal of a press release is to grab media attention with an interesting story so they bring that story idea to their audience.

Writing Your Press Release

As stated, a press release is simply a document written in the form of a news story and sent to members of the press. Anyone can write a press release, but it’s important to use the proper format. A press release should include the following:

  • Source information – Your business name and contact information should appear at the top of the release if it is sent via mail or fax. Press releases distributed online should include this information at the bottom of the page.
  • Release instructions – In most cases, you’ll want to let the reader know that the release is ready to go live immediately. If so, use “For Immediate Release.” If your release is time-sensitive, you can use “For Release Before (date)” or “For Release After (date)”.
  • Headline – Like any news story, a press release needs an attention-grabbing headline. The headline should be between 100 and 150 characters long. Some writers also include a subheading under the headline. This is optional, but it provides an additional opportunity to draw the reader in. It should be short and to the point, but can be slightly longer than the headline.
  • Dateline – The dateline consists of the originating city and the date of the release.
  • Introduction – The introductory paragraph is the most important part of the body of the press release. As with any well-written news story, it should include the “Five Ws” of journalism: who, what, where, when and why. This paragraph should provide all the key points of the release.
  • Body – The remainder of the body should include details supporting the main idea. Use statistics and quotations where appropriate. You can quote customers, business partners, industry experts or even yourself.
  • Company information – The last paragraph can provide a brief background of you and/or your business.
  • Call to action – A press release should direct readers to take some type of action. When writing for the media, that call to action may be an invitation to visit your website, to watch a video, to contact you via email, or to visit your media page for more information.
  • Close – The conclusion of the release should be marked by the “###” symbol. If you need to add any notes that you do not want published, they should appear below the close.

For best results, try to keep the entire release no more than one page long. Always write press releases in the third person, and take care to use proper grammar and correct spelling. If you’re distributing the press release on social media, use social sharing buttons to increase engagement.

Journalists and reporters like videos and images. The visuals help them tell their story. When distributing your release on social media or when pitching to journalists, include links to video to help draw attention to your story.

Newsworthy Topics and Publicity

There are many different reasons to write a press release. While the goal is for your business to get media coverage, it’s important to remember that the focus has to be on your story. You might write about:

  • A new product or service
  • A new partnership
  • A new study, research, or information
  • A new publication
  • An updated business website
  • A change to your company
  • An event that you’re hosting or participating in

In order for a journalist to be interested in your story, it has to be newsworthy. That means that the information or story that you’re sharing needs to be relevant, timely, and interesting to the reporter’s audience.

For example, launching a new product isn’t newsworthy. The fact that your new product improves weight loss success by 75 percent is newsworthy. Journalists look at your press release from the reader’s point of view. 

When writing a press release, think about why a journalist or reporter would care. What’s in it for their audience? Master that skill to put yourself in the media’s shoes and write a release that grabs their attention.


Beyond Your Media Pitch and Distribution

You write your newsworthy press release. You pitch your story idea to targeted media representatives. To distribute it, you can send it to individual media outlets, use a distribution service, publish it on your blog or website, share it with your email list, and more. Once your press release is out there and it’s generating the media attention that you’re looking for, your release isn’t done working for you.

You can…

  • Tweet quotes and facts from your press release
  • Rewrite your press release as an article, blog post, email message, or guest blog post. Change the voice to first person, using “I,” “We,” or “you.” Make it a little more conversational. Change your call to action so that you motivate prospects and customers to act and get the most from your release.
  • Stay in touch with journalists that you pitch to and reporters that cover your story. Media relationships are built over time. Your press release may be your first contact with a journalist; but, it shouldn’t be your last. Connect on social media, offer value, and pitch future story ideas to specific journalists and media representatives.

Pros & Cons of Press Releases for Website Traffic

Summary recap of content here

Pros:

  • Can send you so much website traffic your website falls over
  • A great way to show you're expertise to a new segment of your audience
  • Helps with your credibility

Cons:

  • Can send you so much website traffic your website falls over
  • Don't always add a live link to your website

Conclusion:

Publicity is an ongoing process. Position yourself as a credible expert in your industry. Look for opportunities to help others and to offer value. When you find them, pitch press releases and story ideas to the media.

Additional Resources:

About the Author Sarah & Kevin Arrow

Sarah & Kevin Arrow have worked in digital marketing since 2006. They share their thoughts and tips here on this site. They'd love to help you become more visible. Book in a call or ping us a message - we're waiting to hear from you!

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