In a recent article, The New York Times Social Media Editor, Liz Heron, explained the news industry shift to “real-time reporting along with user engagement.” And in addition to journalists, millions of other online users are using social media platforms to search for news. This is why Social Media Releases (SMRs) are a critical component for building online engagement. Unlike pitches which are targeted to specific news outlets and reporters, SMRs are intended for the largest possible audience.
In this post I’ll discuss how to create a press release that incorporates social interactivity, what mistakes to avoid and how to boost engagement with your audience.
Traditional PR vs. The Social Media Release
First let’s start with the most basic question – what is the difference between a press release and a social media release? PR is a one-way form of communication where you are targeting journalists to get your news picked-up. It is a ready-to-publish story with all details contained within the release. Social Media releases, on the other hand, cover a mass audience of journalists, bloggers and consumers and messaging must resonate across all groups equally. SMRs go beyond the goal of getting your news published; you are looking to create conversation and have others share your link online via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other channels.
The other key differentiating feature of an SMR is the ability to embed content from multiple social media sites such as YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, etc. SMRs can include video, photos, slideshows, graphics, webinars and even podcasts. Ultimately this makes everything easier for distribution, use and re-use by your online target audiences.
But, writing a press release for social media is not like writing a traditional press release and in this next section I’ll address what you need to know when developing an SMR.
Writing an SMR
The key in crafting your message in an SMR is to do so more simply and creatively to get your point across. Doing so will make it more likely that your story will be picked up by online news outlets and bloggers or shared among online users.
I find it easiest to start with a traditional release then extract key details to include in the SMR. I’ll lose the straightforward, journalism-speak and use a more conversational tone. Most importantly, I’ll think about the overall message I want to convey and why this matters to the audience I’m trying to capture.
With that in mind, following are the key components for crafting your SMR:
- Headline: Keep your title to no more than eight words, which according to Outbrain, performs best. Focus on keeping it simple and make sure to include keywords. For more great tips on headline writing best practices, go here.
- Overview: Create a brief summary to hook the reader. Limit it to one paragraph and eliminate the fluff. As with the headline, it is important to include another keyword at the top of the release to help with search engine optimization. As a general rule, I follow a recommended guideline of one keyword per 100 words. However, to avoid coming across as “spam”, I usually include no more than 2-3 keywords (1. Headline 2. First Paragraph 3. Body Copy)
- Body: Your second paragraph should include facts and bullet points that make the information easily shareable by providing readers with a quick snapshot (this is where you can repurpose the who, when what, where, why and how from the traditional press release).
- About the Company: Include a brief company bio with a link to your website, Twitter feed and Facebook fan page.
- Contact Information: To verify credibility of the information and field any questions, make sure to include contact information for a designated company representative.
- Multimedia: This the meat of the social aspect and should include videos on YouTube, images, RSS feeds and more. Options are important so that your audience can take in your information in their preferred format.
- Social Sharing: The inclusion of “Share this” options can quadruple your number of media mentions. Recommended sharing methods may include social bookmarking sites, Twitter hashtags or Facebook fan pages. *Many distribution sites will have social media buttons that will automatically post a URL of your release to social networks.
Mistakes to Avoid!
As I mentioned, it is easy to turn your social media release into junk mail if you don’t watch out for the following:
- Focusing too much on pushing your company rather than your piece of newsworthy content. I often have clients veer off track by asking for additional mentions of other product offerings, services, and incentives, for example. All of which readers can easily learn about if they choose to visit your website via the link you included.
- Your copy comes off more as an advertisement or straight news read rather than being conversational. Since the release isn’t being distributed by traditional means, it is critical that your release be easily shareable, tweetable and likeable on social channels.
- Including too many links or anchor text. With an SMR you need to focus on 2-3 keywords for optimization and leave the links to your social sharing components.
Publishing an online news and social media release is key to getting your information ranked by search engines. By using a recognized news distribution service, you will ensure your news gets directly into Google.
While each distribution service has its pros and cons, you may want to start with a free package, then determine customization options and upgrade if necessary. A few popular free distribution sites are Pitch Engine, Presskitn and i-Newswire. You should also research coverage for their distribution network to make sure you are maximizing your reach and covering sites favored by your target audience.
While it is important for businesses to create an SMR whenever they have significant news, it is equally important to not flood the communication lines by exercising discretion on what is truly a newsworthy topic. Also, remember that the conversation needs to be two-way, so once a user posts a question about your new product release on Facebook or tweets a comment, make sure your social media team engages. From customers to bloggers, you want your audience to actively share and continue to participate with your brand.
So keep your traditional press release for that push from newswire services and use your social media release to spark shareability.
What are some of your preferred Social Media Release resources? Please share in the comments below!