6 rules for the press release in the Twitter era

People say that social media has killed the press release. But it's how you use them that counts.

 6 rules for the press release in the Twitter era

Twitter has never issued a single press release. For Silicon Valley inhabitants there’s little less fashionable.

However, 109 years since the first press release was issued by the Pennsylvania Railroad, millions of these humble documents are still fired across the planet every single day.

We wouldn’t advise basing your entire content strategy around the press release. But you should start thinking of it as one important component of the wider package. Here are 6 rules to follow.

1. Target the right audience

As Emily Shelley, Sticky Content’s managing director says: “The press release still performs well in its original function – a way to communicate with the press or media.

“Where it doesn't work as well is as a piece of content that goes direct to consumers.

“Keep it on your media hub and make sure you turn stories into something consumer facing for your content marketing channels.”

For your customers, tailor a blog post or launch a social media campaign. But for the wide circulation of facts, master your press release.

2. Grab attention

The emergence of social media – particularly Twitter’s short-form revolution – only strengthens the need to get to your point immediately.

A press release should be front-loaded with the key message. Those laden from the start with history and jargon are sadly destined for the inbox trash bin.

“Tell me the point first then I can decide if I want to read further,” is the blunt advice of Candice Sabatini, editorial director for Beauty News NYC.

Think immediate subject lines, bulleted key-point summaries and clear language.

3. Think multi-channel

To create an effective, modern-day press release you need to consider channelling your message to a wide range of audiences – even within the B2B/press spectrum.

Social media itself can actually prove a great friend. Use it to drive traffic to your release – positioned as longer-form content offering a greater depth of information, going further than the short-form alert.

PR Newswire content is tweeted and retweeted multiple times every second in the Twittersphere. It’s not simply a case of either/or. Use all of your channels to support one another.

Google – once seen as another enemy of the press release – actually gave press releases added legitimacy last September, when it subtly adapted its algorithm to include them in search.

This is an additional reason why your release should be well-written with genuinely useful content, is enriched with relevant links, and directs users to added value content (like videos and infographics).

4. Put the most important information first

When written in a typical news style, press releases offer your organisation legitimacy as an enterprise.

They should follow the classic ‘inverted pyramid’ style of information structuring taught to journalists around the world, and focus on the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, why) of your message.

This recognisable style makes it more likely the press will pick up on your announcement and boost its circulation. It will also convince readers, as consumers, that they’re dealing with a brand that knows how to communicate and isn’t wasting time.

5. Showcase your expertise

A press release offers you the chance to demonstrate your authority.

Use a press release to offer reactions, official responses and thought leadership to the things going on in your wider industry.

Source authorised comment from a senior member of your organisation and offer it to the world as quickly as you can – preferably before your rivals get a chance.

This way, you’re not merely acting as another social media conduit to a news story carried everywhere else – this is your brand’s point of view.

6. Tell your brand story

Perhaps one of the best reasons the press release is still alive and kicking is offered by veteran American PR consultant Betsy Kosheff: “They’re still a good way to get a company thinking about what their story is.”

Every company or brand has its own story – a reason it came into existence. One of the shortcomings of social media and quick-fix media is its capacity to lose sight of this.

Get your story down in writing. Tell the press and the media why you’re out there doing what you do and inject elements of your personality into your story.

Whether or not the press release in its original format remains as fully pertinent today as it did back in 1906 is questionable.

But as an adaptable medium allowed to evolve and stand beside its modern-day peers, there’s no reason to suggest it can’t continue to flourish.