I recently heard the media relations director for a major university speaking about her strategies. When asked how many news releases her office issues, she said about 300 annually—that’s nearly one a day! She then added that most of the releases aren’t actually issued to the news media, but simply posted on the Web for “internal purposes.”
That’s not an oxymoron, but an indicator that the news release has outlived its usefulness in a social media/Web 2.0 world. It’s also an indication that this university is investing a lot of time, labor and cost in an outdated and ineffective communications tool purely to satisfy internal clients.
Many people ask for announcements, news conferences or news releases when they really need or want something else. For years I’ve recommended options communicators can use. Now I’m updating that list to reflect more social media options so you can stop producing news releases and put your time to better use.
Try these options instead of a news release:
1. Post a short video message.
Online video is an enduring and strongly preferred way for people to get information on the Web. Keep videos short, post them between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for highest viewing, and use them as a more personal way to announce news like award winners, initiatives and promotions.
This welcome video by composer Tan Dun announcing the YouTube Symphony Orchestra project is an example. Be sure to post text along with the video so search engines can find keywords.
2. Use Twitter.
Rather than post news releases written to fit a journalistic (or internal) standard, post appropriate Web content and use Twitter’s 140-character limit to summarize and point to your online content.
Is there a breaking situation that changes frequently? Post updates with a hashtag so users can search for and follow the news.
3. Post to your blog.
Why use a news release when blogs are an easy-to-update alternative? You can enrich a blog post with photos, video, audio, links and more, and your RSS feed allows others to subscribe for instant updates.
4. Post to social networking sites.
Whether your audience gathers on Facebook, LinkedIn or a more specialized network, use the status updates or discussion areas to post announcements targeted to your audience. Better yet, start a group on these pages, and send the announcement directly to the group-a self-identified audience that you know will be interested. Professional networks like LinkedIn are perfect for promotions, awards and other professional advancement releases-the ones most reporters won’t cover, anyway.
5. Follow HARO and similar resources.
You can subscribe (for free) to daily emails from Help A Reporter Out (HARO) to learn what reporters are looking for. You can get even more frequent updates by following HARO or ProfNet, another reporter query referral service, on Twitter.
If you’re on Facebook or LinkedIn and have longstanding relationships with reporters, ask them to join your network. Just don’t abuse these inroads by sending requests and emails too frequently.
6. Write opinion posts.
Use letters-to-the-editor, op-eds or blog posts. Take a look at my tips on writing strong op-eds, as they’ll increase your chance of publication.
Better yet, self-publish your opinion on your blog, and alert other bloggers on social media to pick it up.
7. Pick up the phone.
The phone is still my favorite tool for reaching reporters. Leave enough information, (including a Web pointer) to make sure reporters can find what they need without calling you back.
8. Use email.
Email a newsletter or letter to your customers, members or constituents, and post past letters and newsletters on your website. If you’re going to email reporters, however, beware: their inboxes are overloaded. Follow these tips for emailing reporters.
9. Give a speech to the target audience.
You can also post this most personal form of group communication online as text, video and audio for those who couldn’t attend. If the speech includes real news, alert reporters in advance and make text available.
10. Post background resources.
Create a robust array of online resources-links and profiles of expert and non-expert sources, background papers and reports, databases and more. When news occurs, you can share links to these relevant sources on social media.
11. Comments on other people’s posts.
You or your experts can post thoughtful comments on blogs, social networking sites and even on Google (just click on the speech balloon after a mention in a search result to post a comment). People, including reporters, will find you when they turn to search engines for background on breaking or feature stories.
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