PR Tools: What Does a Press Release Actually Do?
Author: April White
The press release is a tool as old as time (or at least as old as 1906, when the first modern release was issued).
In this era of digital transformation, where local newspapers are shuttering and the digital landscape is cluttering, some brand strategists are choosing to forego the press release as a tactic. It begs the question: Is this written piece of content outdated and ineffective? I would argue the press release is actually underrated and a must-have tool for generating brand awareness.
When used correctly in a brand’s public relations efforts, press releases are incredibly impactful. The best PR agencies know that a strategic execution can take it beyond just putting out news and into supporting a well-rounded marketing plan. Public relations and marketing are long-term initiatives, and a good PR practitioner understands that every tool on the PR side should work to reinforce a brand’s marketing and business goals, to maximize overall ROI.
On paper, the purpose of a press release is simple: It informs the public (and the press) about an important company initiative.
However, it’s not enough to just publish a press release over the wire. If you’re a brand working with a PR team to publicize an important announcement (like a merger, acquisition, product launch, IPO, and so on) it’s crucial to ensure the release acts as a strong, strategic anchor to the rest of your announcement plan.
The stakes have evolved over the last 118 years. So, in 2024, what does a press release actually do? Here are six ways this tired-and-true tactic can work for your brand.
- A press release can make your announcement more newsworthy. When written well, a press release ties in research and current industry trends to make your announcement as newsworthy as possible. Your message takes center stage, flanked by the greater context of the industry at large and the direction of your company within it, reinforced by relevant proof points from your brand story. It allows you to center your news in a way that is timely or of interest to the reporters who might cover your space, and intertwines your company’s news with the current relationship of your industry to the public. Quite literally, it relates your industry to the public in a way that is most likely to resonate with your target audiences. Whether it’s a recent report you’ve published, a strategic new hire you’ve welcomed on board, or a product you’ve developed to fill a gap in the market, a well-constructed press release situates your news in a way that will attract the most possible attention.
- A press release allows your brand authenticity to come through. Brands should always align their storytelling and “storydoing” in a way that’s true to them. Press releases announce the actions that a brand takes and tells that story in a way that resonates with the public. A good PR team will ask you: What do you want to be known for? With that North Star in mind, your PR specialist will — or should — encourage you to take definitive action as a brand to embody that mission. Then, a press release puts those authentic actions into the spotlight and disseminates it to a range of relevant news outlets. That authenticity, evident in the news you share over the wire, allows your brand to build trust and credibility with your target audience.
- A press release can supercharge your SEO strategy. A press release should always be written with an SEO plan in mind — from the headline to the boilerplate at the bottom. A good PR practitioner will ensure that the most highly trafficked keywords for your brand or industry are incorporated. Great public relations agencies know: Journalists are likely to rely on a press release as a primary source if they decide to cover your company’s news. The messaging — and the keywords — within are likely to appear in any news coverage the announcement might receive. (That can drive a substantial impact on your digital footprint.). A website without strong SEO fundamentals is a missed opportunity, and an SEO program without a strong strategic messaging infrastructure is a wasted effort. The same rings true for your press releases.
- A press release can offer measurable reach. Of course, your PR agency should be able to provide the basic metrics which accompany any press release distribution (such as the number of pickups the release received on news websites, the estimated UVPM for the news, and so on.) But there is another, often-overlooked way to incorporate direct measurement of conversions. Your PR agency can incorporate links to vanity pages within the release. While reputable news outlets will almost never accept a trackable link for an article, a press release offers greater control. Utilizing vanity links can help your company to dive deeper into what both journalists and the audience are clicking on and interested in within the release. The best PR agencies can advise about potential backlinking strategies for your next announcement, to push new eyes to specific landing pages and drive overall conversions.
- Press releases offer full control of how you’re quoted. The inclusion of a snappy quote from your brand’s executive is a standard practice for a press release — but the best PR agencies recognize that they perform double duty as one of the most important parts. The quotations included within your release allow for an unfiltered point of view or opinion from your brand’s perspective, in your spokesperson’s own words. A good quote can add color, character and strategic positioning — without leaving you at the mercy of an editor’s chopping block, like a media interview would. Your PR strategist should be an effective writer, able to craft awe-inspiring sentiments that pull the release’s relevancy into full view and deliver a lasting impression, packaged neatly and delivered directly to the press.
To sum it up, a press release can do so much more than simply pushing out news. The best press releases are not ostentatiously self-promotional; rather, they carefully center the brand’s strategic positioning and allow the company to be in control of the messaging. They can create a compelling narrative that will leave journalists (and customers) wanting to know more. After over a century, the press release has evolved, but it remains an effective tool to offer a forward-thinking piece of content, designed to gain traction quickly and heighten your brand profile.
Wondering what a well-rounded press release strategy can do for your business? Request a consultation and we’ll show you what the power of PR can do for your brand.
Trust Relations Team