…and the State of the Press Release in 2015
I found some treasures buried within “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” website, and I think you should see them.
They’re satirical press releases...and as someone who’s written a ton of press releases, I love all of the ways they mock every element of this boilerplate document.
This example starts with the perfect stock photo and superlative headline:
Then, the press release, provided “For Immediate and Satisfying Release,” kicks off with a subheading claiming ColbertLateShow website was expected to attract 3 trillion visitors. The location, the canned quotes, the faux hashtag—yeah, we’ve all been guilty:
Then, you have some rave reviews from fictional and historical figures. Media inquiries go to chief propagandist Albert Realname:
Press Releases in 2015: 3 Rules
I remember the days of SEO in which people used to mass produce press releases as a backlink building tactic. They’d pay PRWeb and other sites to store and “distribute” their press releases, most of which never attracted any attention. After Google served up a big ol’ Panda penalty for press release storehouses last year, press releases are no longer viable as a link building strategy unless they get picked up by a good publication or your news gets reported by a publisher or influencer.
Always use press releases for PR strategy first. Here are three strategies for press release creation and distribution in 2015:
- Use them for local publicity. If you have a good newspaper, a thriving local blog scene related to your business, or a local television news channel (if your announcement is truly newsworthy), a press release can open doors for earned media and boost your local SEO factors as a bonus.
- Send them to content-hungry, mid-level industry publishers with high domain authority. One technology site I used to write for, a site with strong domain authority, posts pretty much every press release it receives. It also farms out many of them to be written up as news stories, generating easy earned media for businesses. Find sites like these in your industry and build relationships with writers and editors. This strategy can produce earned media, easy shares for your social networks, and natural inbound links.
- Don’t write a press release every time you go to the bathroom. If you write a press release for every little thing you do, reporters notice, and they get tired of covering you. Even if an editor assigns the story, the reporter isn’t going to put much effort into making you sound interesting.
Owned Media Alternatives to Press Releases
The folks at Organik SEO have written a good blog post about press release alternatives. Essentially, they recommend small businesses take more of an owned media strategy for getting out their news. I don’t disagree, and I especially like two of their points:
- Try live stream video if you have a loyal audience. I would add that it couldn’t hurt to record video and upload it on your Facebook page—for SEO purposes, always use native videos on Facebook instead of sharing a link from your YouTube channel.
- Build your own brand voice. Use your blog and social channels to communicate your news in your brand’s authentic voice. If you go for earned media later, reporters will search for these published items to get a good sense of who and what you’re about.
With that said, don’t give up on earned media altogether; just make sure you’re actually sharing something newsworthy. Experiment with local press release distribution first and then expand your strategy outward.
Links in Press Releases: a Word of Caution
If a publisher picks up your press release and links back to your website organically, that’s a win in terms of SEO. However, Google started penalizing some companies whose press releases have been distributed by sites like PRWeb, saying the syndicated links were inorganic.
I recommend including rel=nofollow tags on any URLs provided in your press releases. If you distribute them through PRWeb today, all distributed press releases automatically contain rel=nofollow links, which is a good thing. Alternatively, you can provide the URL as text only without using a hyperlink.
Press releases earn links if you’re lucky, but their primary purpose should be for generating earned media. Laughing at press releases is fine for satirists like Colbert. Getting a Google penalty is no laughing matter.