Who is the target audience for your press releases? If the answer that comes to mind is ‘journalists’ then think again. Do journalists buy your products or services? They might do if you are a well-known consumer brand, but probably not. The real audience is likely to be a mix of your current or potential customers, investors (where applicable), current and future employees, partners and range of other important stakeholders.
Journalists are in most cases an intermediary audience. You communicate with them in the hope that they will say good things (or not say bad things) about your brand that in turn will influence opinion towards your brand amongst those who make an impact on your business.
Too many businesses still see the press office or media room sections of their websites as an intermediary channel – it exists to provide information for someone else to take and make into a story about your business. Sometimes this mentally applies to the website as a whole!
With the increasing interconnectedness of the web, the overlapping between ‘new’ and ‘traditional’ forms of media and the rise and rise of social media there is now a great opportunity for businesses to communicate directly with their target audiences.
But this requires a shift in thinking on the part of those responsible for communicating what your business is doing.
- Write with a wider audience in mind. If you are used to communicating with a small group of well informed journalists this will affect the way you write. What if one of your customers were to read your press release, what would they think? Would it still make sense to someone whose day job wasn’t researching and writing about companies like yours?
- Take a new approach to how the story is presented. You may be able to get away with presenting a boring wall-of-text press release if the only people you expect to read it are those who are actually paid to do so. This is particularly true for larger companies who can get away with very lazy presentation – journalists will write about you anyway just because you are such a big player. If you write with the notion in mind that you want a more general audience to choose to read your story over and above other stories on the web then presentation becomes much more important. It’s no longer a case of a journalist choosing to read your bland press release over and above someone else’s bland press release but a potential customer choosing to read your story versus an engaging well-written blog post or news story.
This new thinking can radically change how professional communicators think about media publications. Yes, they are your friends if you want them to say nice things about you, but they are also now your competition! You are competing for eyeballs – this is a battle for people’s attention.
Getting good coverage is of course fantastic, but it’s also extremely beneficial if people are actually reading about you on your own site!
Smart businesses will also be the ones where PR and marketing work together to think about what to do with the traffic that can potentially come to your site off the back off successful PR initiatives.
The PR team are the story tellers and conversationalists. They are the ones that get people talking about the business (hopefully positively!). It is then the task of the marketing team to think about how to convert this into some kind of tangible business outcome. But these two disciplines need to exist as a much more unified whole and not two discreet activities as they often are.