The New Rules of PR for Technology & Software Businesses

September 23, 2009

Because the rules for relating to the public have changed so slowly over the past ten years, practitioners who learned based on the old rules have been equally slow to change.


How to create a press release strategy for reaching buyers directly

The web has changed the rules for press releases. The thing is, most old-line PR professionals just don’t know it yet.

Because the rules for relating to the public have changed so slowly over the past ten years (since the web has allowed people to read press releases directly), practitioners who learned based on the old rules have been equally slow to change. In fact, most old-school experts have refused to change altogether. It’s time to step it up and consider the promise Web 2.0 public relations holds.

Do you want to:

  • Reach your buyers directly?
  • Drive traffic to your website?
  • Achieve high rankings on search engines?
  • Attract buyers who are looking for what you have to offer?
  • Move people into and through the sales process?
  • Compete more effectively?

Then read on. But be prepared to alter the way you think about press releases.

The old rules of press releases

In the old days, a press release was—shockingly—actually a release to the press.

Before the web, everybody knew that the only reason you issued a press release was to get the media to write about you.

Ye Olde Press Release Rules

  • Nobody saw the actual press release except a handful of reporters and editors.
  • You had to have significant news before you were allowed to write a press release.
  • A release had to include quotes from third parties, such as customers, analysts and experts.
  • The only way your buyers would learn about the press release’s content was if the media wrote a story about it.
  • The only way to measure the effectiveness of press releases was through “clip books,” which collected every time the media deigned to pick up your release.

No More.

The web has transformed the rules and you must transform your releases to make the most of the web-enabled marketplace of ideas.

Why you need to learn the new rules

Today, savvy marketing professionals use press releases to reach buyers directly.

While many marketing and PR people understand that press releases sent over the wires appear in near real-time on services like Google™ News, very few understand the implications for how they must dramatically alter their press release strategy in order to maximize the effectiveness of the press release as a direct consumer-communication channel.

The media has been disintermediated. The web has changed the rules. Buyers read your press releases directly and you need to be talking their language.

This is not to suggest that media relations are no longer important; mainstream media and the trade press must be part of an overall communications strategy. In some businesses, mainstream media and the trade press remain critically important and, of course, the media still derives some of its content from press releases.

But your primary audience is no longer just a handful of journalists. Your audience is millions of people with Internet connections, and access to search engines and RSS readers.

The new rules of press releases

  • Don’t just send press releases when “big news” is happening; find good reasons to send them all the time.
  • Instead of just targeting a handful of journalists, create press releases that appeal directly to your buyers.
  • Write releases replete with keyword-rich copy.
  • Create links in releases to deliver potential customers to landing pages on your website.
  • Optimize press release delivery for searching and browsing.
  • Drive people into the sales process with press releases.

OK, now that you know the new rules, you need to change the fundamental way that you use press releases. I’ll share with you some specific strategies for leveraging the once lowly press release into one of the most important direct marketing tools at your disposal and, in the process, teach you how to drive buyers straight to your company’s products and services.

Let the world know about your expertise

Every organization possesses particular expertise that has value in the new e-marketplace of ideas. The web has made it easy for organizations to publish that expertise in various forms, including press releases, which allows companies, institutions, and non-profits to function much like traditional publishers. Organizations gain credibility and loyalty with customers, employees, investors, and suppliers through content. Smart web marketers now think and act like publishers in order to create and deliver content targeted directly at their audience.

As organizations of all types begin to behave like publishers, many are adapting to the rigors of the publishing business and learning the editorial process. At the same time, new rules are emerging as online publishing continues to mature.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, all organizations are searching for the elusive key to success. Well, look no further! Content, even in the form of a “mere” press release, will unlock success in almost any product category, even in highly competitive industries where smaller players are beset upon by larger, better-funded competitors.

Example of the new rules of press releases in action

Let me tell you a story.

I speak regularly at conferences and seminars. In the Fall of 2005, I was preparing a keynote speech called “Shorten your sales cycle: Marketing programs that deliver more revenue faster.” To be honest, I was kind of procrastinating. Facing a blank PowerPoint® file, I decided to hit on Google in search of inspiration.

I entered the phrase “accelerate sales cycle” to see if there was anything interesting I could use in my presentation. The highest-ranked listings for this phrase on Google were from WebEx™, a company that provides online collaboration services. What was most interesting was that the links pointed to press releases on the WebEx site.

Then I went over to Google News and checked out the same phrase—“accelerate sales cycle”—and sure enough, WebEx also had the number one listing with a very recent press release dated September 28, 2005: “Application Integration Industry Leader Optimizes Marketing and Sales Processes with WebEx Application Suite.” The press release, about a WebEx customer, had been sent through PR Newswire and had a direct web link to the WebEx site to provide additional information.

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