You’ve researched and written your release, checked it over carefully and had the quotes approved and facts checked, then you’ve created your press list and selected your press release distribution service. Full of excitement you send your release out and share it on social media. You make stylish follow-up calls with key journalists. Then silence.
What happens next?
Often you will have a good idea when coverage is coming up as you will have had contact from journalists and/or bloggers. They may even let you know when the story will appear (but don’t push them on this as journalists often can’t be sure).
But sometimes these clues to upcoming coverage may be missing, and it is quite possible media outlets may cover your story without contacting you first. So you need to go looking for the coverage.
Keep an eye (or an ear) on the media from your target press list and use search engines to see if you’ve triggered any online coverage. You could invest in a media monitoring service (also known as ‘cuttings’ or ‘clippings’) . By subscribing to such a service you will get an electronic ‘cuttings book’ sent to you every now and then which includes mentions of your organisation. There are dedicated online services too which seek out stories on websites and social media and alert you. Many monitoring suppliers can do both traditional print ‘cuttings’ and digital monitoring. The downside to most of these services is often that the cost is significant and that they are rarely 100 per cent reliable, but they can potentially save a lot of time.
Another technique to measure the impact of press release activity (or any marketing activity for that matter) is to look at website analytics. For example, if a story has included a link you may see click-throughs show up in analytics by looking at ‘referrers’ to your site. Even if stories don’t include a link, good media coverage can often boost search traffic (this debunks the belief by those who are obsessed with website traffic that the only valuable coverage is that which includes a link). This can be identified by looking at the search terms people are using to get to your site and if there is a sudden rise in certain terms that relate to recent coverage. However, analysing website traffic can be quite technical and certainly beyond the remit of this post, but understanding the basics of what it can tell you can be useful in working out ways to measure impact.
There is the distinct possibility that nothing will happen at all. No journalists will call and your organisation will be sadly absent from the front page (or home page) of the newspapers the next day. Don’t be disappointed – sometimes it takes a while for things to filter through. Media outlets work well in advance or decide that your release is not news but could be useful in a longer article (a ‘feature’) which tend to be planned months ahead. It may be that your release doesn’t get picked up at all – many factors are at work, sometimes journalists can be very fickle when it comes to what they think a story is. At other times you can be drowned out by other news or there may simply not be enough slots to fill to include your story.
Even if you get no ‘traditional’ press coverage you may find it gets shared on social media or picked up by blogs. This kind of coverage may be limited in terms of the audience but the value can be high. It’s better to measure these outlets in terms of influence rather than audience, plus they often include extremely valuable links to your site.
Even in the absence of online coverage your release is more than likely still be working for you. Journalists may use it many months later (it’s an extreme case but I got coverage in The Times three years after a press release was submitted) or be more open to subsequent releases, and it’s likely that customers or potential customers will access your release directly online. In addition, every release online has the potential to boost your traffic and awareness regardless of whether they get picked up by journalists or not.
The moral of the story is that press releases should be considered as a regular part of your marketing activity. One press release may hit the mark or it may not, but if you do one a month or one a quarter your chances of real results will increase significantly. And if you work closely with journalists and bloggers you will begin to develop valuable relationships with the media and other influencers.