Recently, PRSA rolled out new webinar offerings along with a shiny new system. I was lucky to be invited to present their first webinar on the topic maximizing digital news releases. In true PRSA style, everything was buttoned up and well managed. But the most exciting change was a chat feature than enabled hundreds of PRSA members across the country to communicate with each other throughout the webinar.
Being a working mom, I like to think I’m good at juggling multiple things at once. But I have to admit, presenting while chatting was a bit too much for me. So it wasn’t until after the webinar that I really had a chance to read all the comments and appreciate how much the participants likely got from each other. This is our digital world working just as it should!
I also noticed a few consistent themes and questions that bubbled up from the chat transcript and I wanted to address them briefly for all you ComPRehension fans. So, here are a few must-knows about digital releases…
First, there were a few questions about whether or not journalists really want releases delivered via email and, on a related note, if all journalists even can receive HTML emails. Here at PWR New Media, we conduct annual surveys asking journalists how they want to receive releases and what content they want in them. (You can check out info from our 2011 survey here and subscribe for our upcoming newsletter about our 2012 survey here.) Every year, roughly 85–90 percent of journalists tell us they prefer to get releases via email (but no attachments). Indeed, journalists prefer releases that are delivered via email to all other delivery methods by overwhelming margins. Now this doesn’t mean you should send 10,000 emails a day folks, but well-targeted releases sent via email are appreciated, especially if they’re easy to navigate and include the kinds of digital content that now make journalists’ lives easier. But it is true that not all journalists can receive, or want, HTML emails. Ideally, your digital releases should have a plain text version so that folks who don’t want, or can’t get, the HTML get a simpler version. And a mobile friendly version of your release is another good addition — as our survey confirms, more and more journalists are using hand-held devices to research stories and peruse releases. Finally, it’s still best practice to personalize notes to the journalists who are your top targets (our clients often send links to the multi-media digital releases we create for them via personalized emails but have us distribute to a wider audience.)
So did you catch that part above about journalist-friendly digital content? What I really mean by that is that journalists want easy access to relevant multi-media content: images, backgrounders, video, quotes, text, etc. Ideally, content is presented so that journalists can easily grab and reuse it. So, for example, including photos with links to high res versions, low res versions, and even an embed code gives journalists a lot of options. Easily transferable relevant content makes journalists’ lives easier. And making their lives easier, means more pick-up for your brand! (You can see examples of releases we’ve designed, developed and distributed for our many public relations clients here.)
On a related note, a few folks asked about the aesthetics of a good email campaign. (I’m just geeky enough to find that a fascinating topic!). The most important thing to keep in mind about this is that most journalists will receive your email with images blocked. Make sure your most important content is visible: headline, subhead and the first few sentences should be visible to all but it’s also best practice to render visible the additional content. So links to video and image galleries, for example, should be plain text (versus Web buttons). That way, folks know at a glance that your release includes all that great content they’re looking for. Oh, and remember, the upper left quadrant is above the fold in the world of email, so use that real estate wisely. And keep in mind that spam is in the eye of the beholder. The more aesthetically pleasing, well targeted, and well organized your digital releases are the less likely they are to be perceived as spam.
Finally, regarding email distribution best practices, we’ve noticed over the years that releases that arrive with “from” lines that highlight the featured organization (versus the public relations firm name or a personal name) deliver better metrics (such as email open rates). Similarly, subject lines should be short, concise and simple statements about what’s really newsworthy in your release. In other words, be very honest in your email campaigns. (Yes, it is a rule to live by, even in email!) But when to send? Again, because we send so many releases and track metrics, we can share food for thought. For our clients, generally speaking, late morning, midweek distributions perform a bit better. Although folks are often surprised by that, the fact is that people are more likely to open emails that arrive while they’re at work. Emails that are sent too early land in a long list in the inbox and folks just love to delete, delete, delete over their morning coffee so think about trying a later send time and see what that does for you.
Hopefully these notes from an email geek are useful for you rock star public relations professionals. As always, we enjoy working with PRSA and our many public relations clients. Feel free to reach out to me if I can be of service!
Malayna Williams, Ph.D., is a managing partner at PWR New Media, experts in interactive digital communications. She has worked in the digital communications field for seven years, focused primarily on the execution of electronic press kits.