Crafting the Modern Press Release

Press ReleaseFour must-haves to make your news more compelling

by Ann Bates

Credit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.

The reality of today’s media environment is that everyone is competing for the same audience.Consumers are bombarded with a 24-hour news cycle and endless exposure to content via social media. Though a traditional and oft-employed public relations tool, today’s press releases must empower credit unions’ news and differentiate their brands and services, using modern tools to do so. There are several ways credit unions can compose press releases to maximize the potential of discovery, coverage and sharing on social media.

1. Compose Content With Search Engines in Mind

Hundreds of thousands of press releases are distributed over wires and in online newsrooms every day. This means search engine optimization is an incredibly important PR tactic. When you write a press release, consistently include keywords, terms that are most often associated with your credit union and most likely to be searched. It is also important to pay attention to your competitors and how they describe themselves. A simple review of what news items are outputted when you search your credit union’s potential identifiers can help you determine how often they appear in connection to competitors’ news. Lastly, many search engines, such as Google, show up to 70 characters along with the headline of an article on a search page; therefore, it is important to include descriptive and compelling subheads that will entice viewers to click and learn more.

2. Click To Tweet

In 2013, Nielsen reports indicated that upwards of 80 percent of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations, or earned media. To encourage your members and followers to share your news with their unique followers via Twitter, provide them with an easy way to do so. Click To Tweet is a new tool that allows you to create a tweetable link that can be included in the text of a press release. These links can be embedded into websites as well and offer your followers a quick and easy way to spread your news. Social media is a core source of feedback, and how often a press release is shared is an indicator of its success.

3. Use Links to Your Advantage

Links are an important way to encourage readers to click through to an organization’s website. Using embedded links in your press release is also a good way to encourage SEO; however, it is important to use these strategically instead of applying them to the same keywords over and over again. Another practical method is to anticipate your audience and their needs and to provide links that will direct them to pages that will act as resources. While it is always helpful to provide a link back to your credit union’s home page, you will help a viewer more thoroughly understand your news if your links take them directly to a new product or service’s page.

4. Boilerplate Necessities

A credit union’s boilerplate, or its standard description that is included without change in every press release, is an important PR tool that is often overlooked. This passage is essentially the “about” section of a credit union’s website rolled into one paragraph and is likely one of the only pieces of writing that is consistently attached to an organization across the Internet. Boilerplates are often viewed by potential members to get a feel for a credit union, whether is it credible or not and if it provides the services they are searching for. Journalists will often use all or part of the text when they cover your news and need a short explanation of what a credit union specializes in.

To craft an effective boilerplate, organizations should be brief and concise but comprehensive in their description of what they offer. It is important to describe one’s strengths while maintaining believability and avoiding industry jargon that an average person wouldn’t understand. Credit unions shouldn’t forget to incorporate SEO strategies into their boilerplates and include links to their owned media as well, including their Twitter pages, blogs, online newsrooms and key contacts.

A press release that is well written and tells a compelling story speaks for itself. However, it is important to take into account the subtle changes a credit union can make to these materials to generate awareness, promote brand discovery by consumers, start conversations on social media, drive inbound website traffic and more. While press releases cannot stand on their own, crafted the right way, they can act as a strong base to a modern PR program.

Ann Bates is an account coordinator at William Mills Agency, the nation's largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog.

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