In their purest and most formal sense, press releases are official statements to disseminate information to the media. They conjure the image of the large corporation with a PR department that handles all formal interaction with the public. One cannot argue the value of an effectively-executed press release strategy to help drive brand recognition and personal vesting of stakeholders. After all, who doesn’t enjoy reading about a favorite product or service, especially if they or someone close to them is personally vested. So how do smaller companies with smaller budgets develop an effective press release strategy?
In my opinion, an effective strategy, regardless of the size of the company, has four necessary components:
- A passionate belief that no story about your product or service is too small to tell (avoiding the “no one will want to hear about that” mentality)
- Publications that make sense for your company’s products and services (getting the message to a more receptive audience)
- Is incorporated into the annual performance goals of each business unit
- Is a documented part of your ongoing digital marketing presence and corporate record
Note: for this article I am focusing on marketing-related press releases versus the more formal execution of “corporate” communications in response to business, industry, or product challenges.
If you are excited about something, someone else will be too
Encouraging, or even assigning, the responsibility to write a press release is not only a great way to help teammates to develop effective writing skills, it is also a helpful way to encourage employees to get more vested in their job, their team, and their company. And in the case of a cooperative – an organization that is 100% owned by its clients – it can help employees feel more vested in the industry they serve.
However, for many team members the thought of having to write something that might be interesting enough to be printed in a national trade magazine can be perceived as a daunting task. To help combat this, employees should be encouraged to start small: write a couple paragraphs as if you were helping a co-worker learn about the valuable things being done by your team.
For many it becomes second-nature over time, and for most it reinforces their valuable contribution to the overall business. Furthermore, the more of your teammates feel inspired to participate by either writing or commenting on someone else’s article based on their personal experience, the more appealing it becomes for others to follow.
Do valuable things and then tell people about it.
Everyone can be a PR agent
One of the most valuable tactics my CUSO initiated many years ago was to establish a quota system for each department as part of our overall annual press release goals. We believe strongly in the mantra “track it and attack it” and we set the bar high enough to be a challenge. It is fair to say that it forced many teams to step outside their comfort zones, especially in those early years.
What it did was instill the idea in each team member that, with a little thought, they could be an effective PR agent for their team. We also believe it stirred up a little competitive spirit among the team members. For my team in particular – the sales team – it not only stoked the competitive flames, it also helped everyone to become more effective writers, which certainly serves them well in their day-to-day job execution. Plus, regular communication to the teams about progress toward their quota helps ensure that it remains a consistent focus item throughout the year.
Gamify the press release process – Track It and Attack It.
Publications are always looking for content
The number of times that our company has been picked up by the various industry trades has increased exponentially over the past decade. Admittedly, when we first embarked on a coordinated press release strategy as a company, we didn’t anticipate the success we would have getting published in the trades. In retrospect, I should have expected that outcome – the number of news outlets was growing proportionately with the number of organizations “going digital.”
Being able to send a daily news feed to subscribers digitally requires content at a higher frequency than in the “old days” when print pieces were edited and published as weekly or monthly periodicals. The need for a pipeline from trusted, consistent authors is imperative for trade publications to go “daily digital” effectively, which opens up the opportunity for organizations like ours (and yours) to fill that pipeline. It’s no coincidence that the various news feeds in the credit union industry publish similar, and sometimes duplicate, content in their daily wires. The advantage to the writer of the press release is obvious – more industry professionals might click the link to their content. The more effective, topical, and relevant information you produce, the higher chance a publication will use it to quench their thirst for daily content.
If you submit it, they will consider it.
Digitization is a win-win-win
Earlier I mentioned the “old days” where written press releases were exclusively on printed media and, typically, based on an established periodical publishing schedule. Speed to market was limited and there was more competition for the space that each periodical had when they went to print. Primarily, public relations and marketing teams were responsible for getting a message out for consideration, and the subject matter was typically something on a grander scale based on these factors.
I would contend that the “traditional” process has been (or should be) replaced with a process that is focused on a significantly higher volume and frequency, but that also has a more compact, tactical message, and always with a digital footprint that is an integral part of the organizational digitization strategy. This ensures that the content is part of the internal web presence in addition to being pushed out to trade organizations.
A side benefit of an effective press release digitization strategy is that it not only forces everyone in the organization to keep their fingers on the pulse of what is happening across the company, but it also allows vested external participants (boards, clients, prospects, consultants, etc.) to keep abreast of those same activities and commentary. Once again, as a customer-owned organization, this has become part of my company’s full disclosure strategy to provide unfiltered access to those vested in our collective success. Digitization has helped close the loop of continuous communication and access.
Don’t just send them out, post them to your own site!
Get planning, get writing
I hope this inspires other companies, departments, teams, or anyone that wants to get their message out to deploy a formalized press release process. No idea is too small to tell people about, everyone can be their own agent, and it should be part of everyone’s performance plan. There is a plethora of delivery channels waiting to pick up a story and publish it, and digitization is a key for speed, effectiveness, and the sustainability of organization. Happy writing!