Press releases can feel like a necessary evil to many campaign managers. You have to issue them but you don’t have much confidence that they’ll earn you any votes, in large part because you have no control over whether the media will report the information or how their stories will present your candidate.
But that view is changing as more and more campaign activity moves to the Internet. Taking advantage of blogs, YouTube and interactive websites, smart campaigns are attracting donors, volunteers and voters by making their press releases both relevant and findable in the online world.
When press releases can be found on search engines and news websites like Google News, they can play a major role in supporting one’s overall campaign marketing strategy.
Knowing press releases can have that sort of impact is not the same as making it happen are two different things. You need to know how to get your releases into the world of search and how they should be written so that they will pop up in searches. There are also some key elements that can make a big difference in the results you get. Press Releases and Campaign Strategy
Leaving aside the fact that you still need to get your releases to the traditional media, think about press releases in light of your overall campaign strategy. Press releases can:
Support existing ties to supporters, donors and volunteers
Help attract new supporters, donors and volunteer
Help create buzz about specific issues
Help promote your candidate’s brand identity
Of course, most campaigns are adept at putting their releases on their own website, but that only goes so far. The key is to get all of your campaign releases into the world of search, so that anyone who is searching for your candidate by name or searching on an issue that your campaign has spoken to will find those releases.
Imagine someone searching out your candidate’s position on offshore drilling. If they search for your candidate by name, hopefully they will find your website and eventually find your candidate’s views on the issue. But what if they search on your candidate’s name plus “offshore drilling”? One of the first items they should see is a press release stating your candidate’s views. Consider how much more of an impact that could make versus having to search through a website to find the information!RSS: The Key to Online Relationship Building
In the past, online marketing meant trying to figure out how to get people to come back to a website. One strategy was building and maintaining one or many e-mail lists and sending out e-mail blasts. Today, instant messages can be used for short notices. Now another very valuable tool has come along in the form of RSS (really simple syndication).
The beauty of RSS is that once someone subscribes, your information is pushed to them outside of the cluttered email channel. When you get people to sign up to receive an RSS feed of your press releases, for example, your latest release will pop up in their RSS reader, browser or portal page. As a result, they will see it faster and it is much more likely to be read.
Offering an RSS subscription to your press releases is the way to reach another important audience: bloggers. Bloggers may not like you sending them releases by email. However, if you let someone know that you offer an RSS feed of your releases, he or she might sign up. RSS—not e-mail—is the blogger’s medium.Writing Releases for the Online World
There are at least four critical factors that need to be considered when writing releases for the online world:
2. Page titles
3. The first paragraph
4. Embedded links
Headlines: If you have been issuing releases without a headline or just putting “Media Advisory” at the top of your release, you need to change immediately. Headlines are one of the three most important elements in the search engine ranking of your press release. Your candidate’s name, the contest he or she is running in, as well as particulars from the release should be included in every headline. Instead of “Press Conference Monday at 11 a.m.,” your headline should read “Mary Jones, Candidate for U.S. Congress in New York’s 30th District, Will Hold a Press Conference on Off-shore Drilling in Front of the Yourtown City Hall at 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 6.”
Page Titles: The headline should be used as the title of the webpage version of your press release. Otherwise you’re undercutting the search engine ranking of that release and reducing the chances it will be found.
First Paragraph: The first paragraph of your press release should include all of the who/what/why/where essential information. Why is this crucial? Because if the news person who is reading that release hasn’t been convinced by the headline that your release is important to her or his audience, your first paragraph had better do the job. Don’t count on busy journalists reading your entire release to find key information, such as what the press conference is about.
Embedded Links: Don’t forget to insert links in the body of your text to pages on your website that support the content of your release. Thus, when you’re announcing a page on your site where people can sign up for your RSS feed, include the link to that page. Links can also be included to photos, audio and video clips, as well as to PDF or Word documents.Picking a Press Release Distribution Service
All of the above may sound like you need to involve an expensive IT person. In fact, every capability mentioned here PLUS the ability to reach the traditional media at the same time can be provided by some press release distribution services. When contacting a potential vendor you will want to ask these critical questions:
1. Do they permit you to build more than one media list for your election district? For example, you may want to create separate regional lists as well as separate lists for broadcast and print media.
2. Is search engine optimization of press releases built into their service? Optimization includes such features as using the headline as the page title of your releases.
3. Do they have arrangements with any online news sites that will result in your releases being posted or findable by keyword search? Your chances of being found on sites like Google News will rise dramatically if you use a service that follows requirements for getting releases on Google News.
4. Do they offer an RSS feed of your releases which can be placed on your website?
Then compare pricing. Some companies charge extra for some or all of the above features, while others may offer a fl at rate package that covers everything you need.
This fall, make sure your press releases are part of your online strategy by optimizing them for search engines and offering them via RSS. Who knows—the traditional media might even respond to them as well.Peter G. Pollak is publisher and editor of The Empire Page (www.empirepage.com) and chairman of readMedia Inc. (www.readmedia.com).