Merrick Lozano of PRLeap Gives Tips About Press Releases

This is the third time we’re speaking with Merrick Lozano of PRLeap, so let’s dive right in. The last time we talked here was 2007 when we spoke about local search. What’s new in the area of press releases that people should know about?

Thank you for having me back Michael.

When we last spoke in 2007 the press release had just celebrated its 100th birthday. It had evolved into an effective tool for increasing a brand’s search visibility. You can use an online press release to reach customers and writers who are searching for the type of information you are writing about.

With the emergence of social networks, the press release has continued to evolve – showing its flexibility – as it becomes a tool for sparking conversations and engaging customers and influencers. The social media press release, also known as the social media release (SMR), bundles together videos, pictures, links, and other social objects into a story ready to be distributed via online press release services like PR Leap.

This summer we upgraded our social media release template with the Facebook Like button and the Tweet button from Twitter – to make it easy to spark a conversation in those respective communities. The impact was immediate: with only a few Likes and Tweets, a news release not only gets an increase in visitors from Facebook and Twitter, but it also gets a spike in search traffic.

… socializing a press release into a social media release makes it easier to spark conversations on communities where your audience is participating. You’ll get much better results if you help get the conversation started by liking, tweeting and submitting the social media release to target niche sites…

 The benefits of socializing a press release are clear, but not all social media releases are equal. Traditionally, a press release was written for the press. This meant writing a news story in the third person. Giving the social media release the flexibility to be written in conversational tone for most audiences makes it more engaging. But most press release services and newswires will not distribute or publish a release unless it’s free of direct address.

This is why at PR Leap we no longer require that press releases be written in third person. We believe you know your customers best. You decide if conversational tone is right for you.

I must admit we didn’t fully embrace the social media release when it was first introduced in 2006. Instead, we immediately adopted what made sense and decided against making any hasty changes until we had a better understanding of the role social networks would play in online PR.

Probably the first important step in a successful press release is getting picked up and included in Google News. What are some tips you have for people to increase the likelihood of that happening?

If you want your press release to get picked up by Google News, then it has to be in acceptable format. There are 16 specific crawl errors the Google Newsbot can trip on.

Here are 5 tips if you want your press release to get picked up by Google News:

  • The press release should be more than 80 words
  • The headline should be between 2 and 22 words (Ideally 7 words)
  • The body should have paragraphs of a few sentences each
  • Bullet points and lists tend to cause a problem when they are preceded by 1-2 sentence paragraphs
  • If  you need to reference an old date in the body of the press release, make sure the publish date of the press release is at the top

Once you’re in Google news, the next big thing most people want to happen is for blogs, magazines, newspapers, or any other media to notice and cover the story. What are some tips you might have that can help people reach that goal?

…Including videos and pictures in your press release is definitely worth the effort. After optimizing your press release, images by far are the easiest way to increase the reach of your press release…

It’s important to establish relationships with people before you actually need something from them. If you have already made the time to establish relationships in advance with Bloggers and reporters, then you should definitely share your announcement with them. Don’t send them your press release; instead, contact them privately with a short preview of what you’re going to announce. Most blogs have a contact section that outlines their rules of engagement and reporters typically have a link to their profile where they list how to contact them.

I don’t recommend buying email lists and blasting them with your press release or else you might end up on blacklists like this one created a couple of years ago by Gina Trapani from Life Hacker.

Here are links to articles from bloggers and journalists about how to pitch them with your story.

You obviously would prefer that everyone use your service to distribute their press releases, but are there any circumstances in which it makes sense to use more than one service? Maybe to put out two press releases with a different editorial slant, or on different dates? Are there any tips you can give about how to track the effectiveness of one over the other?

If you are a big company with a big budget and you want to put your news release in front of the largest audience possible, you can certainly pay for that. Business Wire or PR Newswire would love to take your money and send out your release to their list of newspapers, magazines, radio, and television outlets. There is no guarantee that you will get any coverage from it but, if you have the extra money, it’s an option.

Some of our clients send out their press release through multiple services, including PR Leap, on the same day. Here’s are a few ways to track results for such comparisons.

Track Traffic

Most press release services track how many page views your press release has to date. If you have something like Google Analytics installed you can also see how many visitors are being referred by from your press release on each site you sent it out through.

Track Contacts

You can track customer inquiries via email by customizing the email address on each release, like [email protected] or [email protected] An easier way to do this, if it works, is to add a + sign and any text you like after the + sign. Doing so will allow you to customize your email but still receive the emails in your inbox. For example:

[email protected] (emails received at [email protected])
[email protected] (emails received at [email protected])

Track Rankings

You can track rankings, which should correlate with future traffic, by searching for your press release. Here are a few searches to track your press releases for:

1. headline
2. keyword
3. brand name

Keep track of which press release ranks above the rest on Google Search on day 1, day 7, day 30, day 180, day 365. During the first few days you may see your press release on page 1 inside a News, Images, or Video One Box within the search results.

A more automated way of tracking rankings across search engines would be to use SERP Tracker or the Rank Checker to track the keyword phrases/headlines from your press releases.

Social media experts often tell clients that press releases don’t help social bookmarking efforts on sites like Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon. I don’t know that I agree with that advice. For example, recently OK Cupid released a study talking about pictures, and one of the conclusions they reached was “iPhone users have more sex”. I think this would have been something worthy of a press release. Have you seen any other examples where press releases work with social media or social bookmarking campaigns?

If you think about it, news is inherently social – we talk about it, link to it, bookmark it, tag it, and more.

Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon are definitely a more challenging environment for press releases to thrive in, but it’s possible to find an audience in those communities. Here are some examples of press releases on that did well on social bookmarking and social media sites.

New Rogue ADHD Memoir By Gifted Writer Digs Fiercely Into Adderall Addiction and Psychiatry
Received 2,800+ page views originating from StumbleUpon with only 29 thumbs up.

New ModuLock system provides HT20/22 Replacement
Received 3000+ page views originating from Hacker News with only 49 up votes.

Those are two communities where experts will have you believe press releases are ignored.

Dhani Jones launches new U of M bow tie to support C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital
Facebook sent hundreds of visitors to the social media release within a couple of hours of the press release being shared on Facebook. To date the press release has 98 Likes on Facebook.

As I mentioned earlier, socializing a press release into a social media release makes it easier to spark conversations on communities where your audience is participating. You’ll get much better results if you help get the conversation started by liking, tweeting, and submitting the social media release to target niche sites.

I noticed you have the ability to include pictures and videos with press releases that are distributed through your service. Is this worth the effort, is one more effective than the other, and how can I best use this my advantage?

Including videos and pictures in your press release is definitely worth the effort. After optimizing your press release, images by far are the easiest way to increase the reach of your press release, while video keeps visitors engaged with your news longer. If you have the media, including both pictures and video is a winning strategy.

Here is how to increase the reach of your press release on Google Search, Google News, and Google Images with just an image.

Upload a large image to be embedded in your press release. Make sure to optimize the filename to include the brand name and keyword you are targeting for the particular release. We’ve optimized our social media release template at PR Leap for Google News image inclusion such that your image maybe included next to your news article and also next to other news articles for your target keyword.

All right. Since you were nice enough to answer these questions, I’ll let you wrap up by telling everyone about some of the benefits of using your press release service.

Thank you Michael. PR Leap helps businesses:

  1. Increase their online visibility
  2. Make their brand findable on Google, Bing, and Yahoo
  3. Spark conversations about them on Twitter and Facebook
  4. Drive more traffic to their website
  5. Manage their online reputation
  6. Save money when compared to the cost of advertising
  7. Track their results, which are long-lasting
  8. Get started with helpful articles, an easy-to-use platform, and friendly email support

You can visit PRleap to learn more about their service, pricing, and create a free account.

Thanks for taking the time to talk us today.

As always it’s a pleasure, and I appreciate the opportunity.

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