About to issue a press release to announce your latest product launch? Take your finger off the trigger for a minute first.
Ask any journalist what she thinks about press releases, and the response is likely to be one of two options: a retching sound or an angry rant.
Many journalists (myself, in a former life, included) despise press releases with a passion. Before making the transition from journalism to agency owner, I received at least 10 press releases a day--and never used a single one as fodder for an article. In the vast majority of cases, the releases went straight from inbox to trash without being opened.
Press releases worked in the old days of printed newspapers and limited channels for distribution--but now they're an outdated, inefficient tactic for all but the businesses people already pay attention to. If Apple issues a press release, people will take notice, of course: They're a trillion (depending on the day) dollar company.
But if you're a tech startup that just launched a new shopping bot and are expecting a press release to launch your product to millions of new users, you'll be in for a sad day staring at an empty inbox.
The sad truth is, press releases are not effective for unknown brands: It's like a little kid tugging at his sister's sleeve, saying "Look at me!" It didn't work in your (oh-so-lonely) childhood, and it won't work now.
So what can you do instead?
Don't beg for a story--tell the story.
Instead of asking other publications to write about your brand, focus on developing your own storytelling channels. This might be on your own company's blog, or on larger, existing platforms where you'll be able to draw an audience from Day One. For B2B companies, the LinkedIn publishing platform can help you tap into your own network and their contacts, and is a great place to post or syndicate content.
So once you've decided on a platform, what do you say?
Create value for your reader.
Instead of writing about your product release, write something personal that will provide value to your target audience. Is there something you learned in the course of developing your product or business that will help other people with their own professional development, or with growing their own business?
If you choose to discuss your company in your story, it needs to feel organic. For instance, an entrepreneur named Katharine Zaleski wrote an article for Fortune last year, which discussed the judgmental approach she'd taken to mothers in the workplace in the past--before becoming a mother herself and becoming the victim of similar preconceived notions.
The article then led, quite naturally, into the story of why she founded Power to Fly, a company that helps talented mothers find flexible, remote jobs that they can fit into their lives. The piece got tons of attention (both positive and negative), and likely resulted in thousands of new visitors to the fledgling startup.
This is a perfect example of gaining attention to your brand by trading old-school PR for content marketing. Focusing on content marketing doesn't mean that you can't discuss your company at all, but it needs to feel like a natural part of the story, and your message needs to provide a takeaway for someone else.
Make the message the medium, and it will carry your brand to the next level. (No PRNewswire needed.)