New uses for news releases.

News about your company has always been valuable. Now maybe more than ever.

Virtually all marketers will agree that news releases are a good communications tool, and most will also agree that they should do more with news about their organizations.

And actually, now you can. Because while news stories are still important with traditional media, they may ultimately be as important with evolving media sources.

The value of traditional media sources is still critical. They provide credibility, perspective, and insight. They are still seen by the largest audiences. And—especially with industry-specific B2B media—they have the expertise to efficiently identify what is truly newsworthy.

But with instant electronic distribution, search engines, website repurposing, and other new tools, the news release that may have only been distributed to a few dozen sources five years ago now may have scores of potential outlets.

We have long advised clients of a phenomenon that occurs when an individual reads a news release. Even though the story may be on company letterhead and obviously distributed directly from the company itself, many people who read it later perceive that they read it in a newspaper or magazine. This is reinforced when the story is put multiple media sources—websites, blogs, forums, or even search.

The Center for Media Research recently analyzed companies’ use of news releases and found that in addition to traditional media, releases are being directed to (in order of importance):

· Bloggers and new media outlets
· B2B consumers/customers & prospects
· B2C consumers/customers & prospects
· Webmasters to repurpose
· Partners (vendors, aligned customers, etc.)
· Financial institutions
· Competitors

Reasons for releasing news still focused on the traditional (increasing visibility, reaching customers, announcing news), but we supplemented by new purposes for doing publicity:

· Readily available web content
· Search engine optimization (through additional links from news outlets)
· Conduits to other online sources of information
· Sales tools

So news releases—and public relations programs in general—can be more valuable now because there are more outlets and uses for information.

Traditional media has stepped up its online presence, and that's a tremendous opportunity.

It’s not just new outlets that make this possible. Most traditional media sources have developed online presences, providing more opportunities to disseminate news. For example, we recently did a usage analysis of news releases for a client, and found that in the past year, the number of online news stories had more than tripled—just from the expanded websites of traditional media sources we had always used.

So—as you look at how you should structure your public relations program to take advantage of new opportunities, here are some things to consider:

An online press room is almost essential. Not just for the press, but for other audiences who will find the stories by visiting your website, through search engines and blogs, and through direct links sent to them from other people.

Understand the extended shelf life of your news. Because there are additional outlets, some stories will continue to have value beyond their original publication dates, especially testimonials, “how-to” information, and other news that not just immediate. This is a double-edge sword however, because once you publish something online, it tends to linger in archives all over the web. (See our previous post, “The Shelf Life of Information.” link) So you have to be somewhat judicious.

Include new audiences. If you have an e-mail list of customers and/or prospects, you’re a couple of clicks away from sending the news release directly to them. When they see the story in a traditional resource, you get the benefit of the extra frequency of message and the credibility of a third party resource.

Remember that one size doesn’t fit all. A magazine or newspaper website may only be able to use a portion of your story in its format. But that shouldn’t stop you from expanding the story for your website. A couple of quotes that were in your general news release could be the teaser to show someone an entire interview on your server.

Be active. Most organizations have much more newsworthy material than they think. (We routinely show clients how instead of just one or two stories, we can usually point out ten or twelve that are ready to write). Get them done and distributed. This not only gets you more news, it conveys that your organization is dynamic and should be watched.

And one more thing—kinda important in today's world of reduced budgets—publicity programs can be less expensive than other communications tools.