Posts Tagged ‘news release’

The Top Misused Words in PR

Ragan’s PR Daily published a post yesterday listing their top 10 words often misused in press releases.

Their list:

  • Quality
  • Unique
  • Innovation
  • Official
  • Exclusive
  • Breaking
  • Never/ever
  • Revolutionary
  • Literally
  • Social
I’d have to agree with most of those. It feels like every new product that is launched claims to be “revolutionary” or “innovative”, and “social” is without doubt one of the most abused terms right now. No, adding a “share” button to your site doesn’t make your product “social.”
Why stop at ten words, though? Here are a couple more words that PR people seem to butcher on a daily basis:
  • Leading – It feels like every company claims to be the “leading” company in its industry. Most of the time the claim just isn’t true. Other times, they define their industry so narrowly that it’s accurate while still being meaningless. Once in a blue moon it’s realistic.I’m the leading red-haired digital PR guy sitting on my side of the Edelman Toronto office. It’s true. Also, no-one cares (sob).
  • Ultimate – This one’s a personal peeve. If your new product is the ultimate product for the market,  that means you’ll never need to release a follow-up, right? Oh, wait, you will? Guess it’s not so “ultimate” then. Sheesh.
What would you add to the list?

News Release Vs. Press Release

A few days ago, I mused publicly on Twitter that the term “press release” was outdated and that “Anyone (especially PR people) who uses the term “press release” needs to update their vocabulary.”

This isn’t a new topic – as people pointed out during the ensuing discussion  it’s been around for a while, yet I keep seeing the term “press release.”

What’s wrong with “press release?”

The term “press release” implies something that is no longer true:

Your materials are no longer only seen only by the press. Many releases are now posted online, either via newswire services or in company newsrooms, where they often rank highly in search results. That means customers, stakeholders and others are likely to see them.

Why is “news release” a better term?

The term has a broader focus, which accommodates the multiple audiences of your materials. It’s a good reminder that people outside the media will see your materials.

Equally importantly, the term “news release” reminds us and clients that we should only issue releases when you have news (although the occasional pithy pitch can work). Unfortunately, this is all too easily forgotten.

Who cares?

Why am I writing about this? Beyond those of us in the industry, who really cares?

I think the terms we use with clients are important. Saying “press release” reinforces the misconception that public relations is all about media coverage. The onus is on us in the industry to help others learn that we do much more than that.

It’s not about us – it’s about our audience. Sound familiar?

What do you think?

Back To Pitching Basics

Despite having a set of guidelines on how to pitch me positioned prominently on my site, I continue to receive poorly targeted and poorly-written pitches on a daily basis.

I’ve written in the past about some bad pitches and some really bad pitches I’ve received, and given my advice on those pitches. This time, though, instead of looking at how to pitch, I want to take a look at why a good pitch is necessary.

Let’s consider a straight news release, emailed to someone, against a decent pitch.

A straight news release:

  • Costs little to send per recipient;
  • Takes little or no additional time to draft per extra recipient;
  • Is likely targeted at one or two key audiences;
  • Addresses every recipient the same way;
  • Takes no account of the recipient’s interests or previous work;
  • Does nothing to develop a relationship with the recipient;
  • Has to go through many layers of approval throughout the organization, with many hands making changes;
  • Is generally written to please multiple stakeholders, both internal and external, so gets diluted;

A tailored pitch:

  • Requires research, time and editing for each recipient;
  • Is targeted at the recipient;
  • Addresses each recipient differently;
  • Can refer directly to interests and past work;
  • Can help to build a relationship with the recipient;
  • Is likely to be subject to less peoples’ tinkering than a release;
  • Is written for one purpose and one audience, so can be focused.

In every instance except one – cost – the tailored pitch comes out ahead. The untailored news release is cheaper to send to lots of people, but at what sacrifice?

  • No relationship;
  • No relevance;
  • Reliance on the law of averages to obtain coverage.

In the economic environment we’re in, we’re unfortunately unlikely to always have the budget to tailor every single pitch the way we’d like to. However, even a compromise pitch that acknowledges areas of interest, geographic relevance or an existing relationship is better than a straight news release. In a worst-case scenario, I know I’ve recommended pitching fewer journalists, but doing it well, rather than going out ineffectively to a big bcc’d mailing list.

What would you do if you found yourself with a low time and/or budget for your media (or blogger) outreach? Would you go with a news release to many, a tailored pitch to fewer, or would you take a different approach?

Could SEO Devalue News Releases Even More?

On a recent episode of Marketing Over Coffee, Christopher Penn and John Wall mentioned something that made me stop and think – the idea of people issuing news releases for the Google juice.

Too much jargon

Beware of jargon That idea worried me. To be more specific, the possibility of too much search engine optimization (SEO) in news releases further devaluing the tactic worried me.

The problem: I often hear that we should be inserting keywords into our news releases so that they rank highly in search engines for those keywords.

That sounds great in principle, right?

Right up front: I like the concept of the social media release. I’ve issued them, I worked on moving government news releases towards that format, and I’m a member of the Social Media Release Working Group (although that seems to have gone quiet recently… Bueller?).

SEO sheep

My problem with this, as with many SEO principles in general, is that people will take it to an extreme. They’ll follow the advice like sheep and will force inappropriate keywords (read: jargon) into their writing, and their products (and clients) will suffer.

Sure, these releases may rank highly for some words but so what? People arrive, see a poorly written release or page, fail to find what they want and leave. It’s a cheap tactic – one that’s no better than spamming people with emails. That’s why I heard a well-known marketing personality refer to a recent  SEO conference as “the underbelly of marketing.”

Just write well

Why not just make sure that your release is relevant, well-written and on-topic? A well written release will have plenty of the important words in there as a natural result. With a little extra attention you can optimize your release without compromising its quality.

I don’t want to read a news release front-loaded with every possible keyword under the sun. I want to read about the news.

The problem is bad enough for regular websites, but it’s doubly serious for news releases. News releases as a tactic already have a bad rap after years of abuse by poorly trained or lazy public relations practitioners. We don’t need yet another reason for people to hate them.

Too cynical?

Am I being overly cynical in thinking that people will jump on the extreme SEO bandwagon with news releases? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Look at the trends:

I don’t see the trend changing. As online news releases take off (even more likely given the recent SEC decision), I expect to see even more releases full of jargon. I expect those of us working at more enlightened firms to watch in dismay as the trend continues.

Are SEO-optimized releases a bad thing? No. Of course not. You want people to find your announcements. That’s half of the benefit of online news releases. I appreciate the benefits of genuine, well implemented SEO.

My fear is that, as in the past, poorly trained or careless people will take a good idea way too far. We’ll see even more releases loaded-up with popular keywords and we’ll all get dragged through the muck as a result.

The only solution I see (apart from the trend reversing, of course) is for agencies and corporations to train their PR people well so they don’t think this is a good idea. Will that happen? Again, history shows mixed results.

What do you think?