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The New Rules for Press Releases

News releases used to be written for, and sent to, only the media. Usually that meant the print media, and for economic development departments it meant print media concerned with investment attraction.

But the first rule of modern news releases is that they should no longer be targeted to traditional media only. A difficult economic climate and the advent of new technologies have combined to change modern strategies toward news releases for investment-attraction purposes.

Releases need to generate optimum returns on investment, so they should be written to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. Decide beforehand what you want the release to achieve other than simply disseminating information. Do you want to impress site selectors with the dynamism of your community? Do you want local businesses and employees to continue to be confident that they are in the right place? Do you want government agencies to know about the sectors your community is fostering? In the age of the Web, all these audiences and more – potentially millions of people – have access to your release, unfiltered by the media.

You need to write for them. Write directly for your target audiences in addition to the media that you hope will also reach them. In particular, provide information that site selectors and business investors specifically look for. Present your news with accompanying data about your community’s population, income levels, labour statistics, quality of life, industrial clusters – the kinds of criteria that companies have on their selection charts.

The second rule of modern news releases is that they should generate two-way activity. In addition to directing information outward to promote something noteworthy happening in your community, today’s releases have the additional purpose of drawing traffic to your economic-development website. In other words, they need to be viewed as part of your search-engine marketing strategy.

Write releases that are replete with keywords and phrases that are most likely to be entered by site selectors using search engines to seek potential opportunities. Imbed links in releases to deliver potential investors to landing pages on your website.

First and foremost, publish the release on your website, along with inter-website links to it from all relevant pages, such as your home page. Make it even easier to pass the press-release along to a colleague by adding “tell-a-friend” functionality.

A useful tool is RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. Enable your site with RSS feed capability so that viewers can sign up to receive your releases automatically.

RSS is one of the main ways in which bloggers aggregate content. For that reason an RSS-enabled release has the ability to reach a wide net of people who have an express interest in your community or its activities.

Next inform those on your regular email list by sending a mass mail to let them know about your news. Make sure that the subject line is clear and that the email quickly takes them to the press release itself.

This leads to the next rule for investment-attraction news releases: distribute them in the Web 2.0 world as well as the traditional media world.

Today, you must make sure that your message can be found where your audiences look for it.

  • Free and low-cost online press release websites offer an excellent channel for dissemination.
  • If you have a blog, let your readers know about the press release here.
  • Social networks such as Linked-In, Twitter, and Facebook constitute a collaborative, interactive and dynamic source of community, information and commentary.

The more presence your municipality has in these communities through distribution of news releases and announcements, the more frequently the community will appear on lists of search-engine results.

Social networks also enable access to your news by others who have similar interests. If those interests converge on your investment-attraction release, you may find it going “viral” – reaching vast numbers of people and organizations and creating audiences for your release that you didn’t know were there.

One other best-practice rule remains to be discussed for news releases – how often they should be published, and under what circumstances. We will examine that issue in the following article in the larger context of the importance of frequent communications.

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