Why are we still writing press releases? If press releases are part of your work life, you’ve probably asked this question once or twice in the past year (or more). Really though, press releases require a lot of time and effort to produce and distribute. There are hard costs associated with the process. And I’ll go out on a limb here and challenge the return on investment from press releases – the results tend to be pretty lackluster, even from those fancy multimedia or social news releases. There has to be a better way, and I think that way is a news blog.
What would happen if you stopped writing press releases and instead started a blog dedicated to your company news? If I were working for a brand new start-up today – a company that’s never issued a press release – this is the path I would take. If you build an audience around your news blog, you create an earned media channel for instantly sharing your news with the most-interested audiences. This could be your most-trusted and most-likely-to-be-interested journalists and bloggers, but also could include customers, prospects, employees and all the other key audiences interested in your news.
A blog doesn’t charge you by the word length of your post, or try to upsell you on additional distribution. Distribution is earned by the quality and relevance of the information you share through the blog. Here are a few suggestions for using a news blog as an alternative to writing and distributing press releases. I think you’ll at least consider that blog posts could be better than press releases.
1. Make It Official – let all your existing contacts know that you’re no longer going to be sending out press releases. Send an email to all your contacts and encourage them to subscribe to the blog (make this announcement your first news post on the blog). If you have different types of news announcements, offer segmented subscription options to give your contacts more flexibility (this will drive better conversion, but also allow you to segment your distribution to the best targets).
2. Plan Your News Calendar – you’ll want to publish more frequently on the blog than you would probably send out press releases. This is your opportunity to play editor-in-chief of your own news blog. Develop some themes that will build interest for your content. You’re no longer limited to the tired press release format – you can write news stories on your blog. For example, maybe you have a monthly Q&A column with the CEO about what’s going on in your industry. You can profile a different person in your company each month. You can post your comments on major news and events going on in your industry. You can share insights into internal decisions guiding the development of new products, or share success stories your current customers want to share. Of course, you can post graphics, images, video and other multimedia to the blog as well. Maybe you have your product marketing leader discuss your latest product in a video, supported by an overview of features and a demo – that has to be more engaging than a press release. Over time, this content will lead to interview requests from journalists and bloggers.
3. Build An Archive – before you launch the blog, publish all of the past year’s press releases as posts on the day they appeared. These back-dated posts will serve as your news archive, but also give you valuable content to encourage search engines to rank your posts. This will help you pull more traffic to your news blog. Be sure to enlist the help of your interactive marketing or search engine marketing resources to optimize your posts for the relevant keywords you’re trying to rank for. The archive also invites new contacts to subscribe to your blog, because it gives them some history on the types of news you’re capable of delivering over time (granted, the quality will only get better from here).
4. Solicit Reader Feedback – unlike press releases, your blog is built for comments. Let people comment on your news – you’ll be surprised by the feedback you receive. It’s great to get instant feedback from your audiences on your news announcements. This also enables you to address any issues across your audiences that you might not have learned about through the traditional PR process.
5. Encourage Sharing – with integrated social sharing, your news will have equal or greater reach than before (depending on how social-friendly your releases were). You benefit from this sharing, versus the place your press releases used to be hosted. All the traffic comes back to you, providing you with more opportunities to engage your audience.
6. Track the Results – when all your news is on the blog, you’ll be able to tap into more in-depth analytics on the reach and interest surrounding your news announcements. You’ll know which outlets wrote about your news and linked back (great for SEO), but also be able to report to management (or your client) about the success of various news announcements. If you’re using a lead management or automation system, or an email service provider, you’ll be able to track the reach of your news down to specific journalists (and know whether or not the received the news, read it or read it several times). This type of intelligence is incredibly valuable for your media relations team that is responsible for securing coverage. With this gauge of interest, your team will be able to make better real-time decisions about who to call and follow-up with to secure coverage.
7. Save Money – how much did you spend last year on sending out press releases? I bet it was more than the cost of hosting the blog. Sure, you’ll still have to pay people to write your content – and pitch those stories in some cases. If you do a good job building your audience, the press requests will come to you and not the other way around. This is inbound PR 101.
8. More Likely to Be Read – finally, press releases just aren’t that interesting to read. Blog posts stand a better chance to be read, provided you write them as stories. When you share a link to a blog post with a journalist about your latest news, I predict you’ll get a much stronger response than if you send them a press release. Try it on your next announcement and see what happens. I suspect you’ll make the switch.
This is a crazy idea, isn’t it? It’s not that crazy really. There are a lot of smart companies moving to the news blog as an alternative to traditional press releases. Google and HubSpot are two companies that come to mind. Both use their blogs as the primary channel for communicating their news – and it’s worked really well for them. You too can find success switching over to a news blog as your primary channel for communicating your news. If you’re not ready to jump in full force, you could always launch a news blog to test the waters and compare the results you get there versus your press releases. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
What do you think? Can a blog replace the traditional press release archive on your website? Is a blog post better than a press release? Do you still think a press release is the better option? Share your thoughts.