Most organizations have great stories to tell. New products are coming out, new services are being offered, charitable efforts are being extended in local communities, and countless other newsworthy events are going on within a company at any given time. In today's digital era, there are also numerous online tools available to corporate communicators to help them create, manage, distribute and monitor their news.
It is no longer enough to issue a release over the wire and hope for the best. It is not sufficient to post a news story on your online newsroom and wait for people to come and read it. With so many places on the Internet vying for people's attention, and with cable TV, satellite radio and citizen journalist outlets springing up daily, communicators need to rise above the noise and make their voices—and more importantly, the voices of their organizations—heard.
The New Message
Today's message looks different than those of the past. The content may be the same—after all, a good news story is a good news story. But the appearance, audience and availability of that message have all changed.
Traditionally, organizations generated text-only press releases and sent them out over a wire. They spent a lot of money on glossy press kits that were mailed or handed out at trade shows. With the advent of relatively inexpensive products that anybody can use, communicators can now quickly create high-quality images, audio and video that can be combined to more effectively tell a story. News releases can include hyperlinks to help direct readers to supporting information. Additionally, news stories can take the shape of a quick blog post—or an even quicker tweet—and can be sent "as it happens"; in the past stories had to go through many levels of approval before ever seeing the light of day.
Next, the audience for your message has changed. Now your news can be targeted to investors, analysts, employees, potential clients and customers, franchisees, sales agents, citizen journalists and bloggers, in addition to the mainstream media.
Finally, the availability of your organization's message has been altered. Your news is now part of a 24/7 cycle that constantly needs to be fed and monitored. Events in your industry and surrounding your company can break at any time, and in any number of media outlets. Today's "new" message, while still obviously centered on a good news story, is much richer in content, much more sought after by different constituents and available worldwide and instantaneously.
Now that we've looked at the news content that makes up your message, let's focus on how to make it available, noticeable and shareable online. Marketing your message is not about using your online newsroom to shout at or indiscriminately push your news to people. It certainly isn't about using it to create a revenue stream. It is about using today's tools to promote your news content. How? By listening to, engaging with and conversing among people on social media, by sending crafted pitches to journalists via email and by highlighting and promoting your news on your corporate Web site and related industry websites.
Marketing your message gives you the ability to tell your stories to the world—quickly, efficiently, measurably and cost-effectively. And by initiating the conversation, and inviting feedback and constructive criticism, you are able to build brand loyalty, define product champions and provide content to positive influencers that can help further extend your message, your brand and your organization.
We've identified many methods you can use to help market and promote your news content. While there is a book's worth of information to share, I've selected four techniques I think help best define some of the available digital tools:
1. Search engine optimization. A large percentage of people find news stories on Google. As clichÃ© as that sounds, you must consider the search engine behemoth as a primary outlet for your organization's news stories and event announcements. This means that your stories need to be optimized to give you the greatest chance of visibility as people are searching for news in your industry.
First and foremost, make sure the URL of your online newsroom reflects the branding and existing structure of your corporate site. For example, "news.companyname.com" and "newsroom.companyname.com" are examples of URLs that will have a high Google ranking and will leverage the existing strength of your corporate site's relevancy. Further, ensure that title and first paragraphs of your story contain strategic keywords that define your content and message. These keywords are what people will be searching for, and they should be easily identifiable on your news release Web pages.
2. Social media. A lot of you may already be "marketing your message" by reaching out to people on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. If you are tweeting links back to your blog or online newsroom, or posting your news stories on a corporate Facebook account, you've probably already seen the power of social media in promoting your news. As you develop stories and news announcements for your organization, you can help build brand loyalty by sharing those stories with people using social media.
Take that a step further by creating RSS feeds on your online newsroom that allow people to automatically share your news and events with their website visitors. Finally, by integrating a blog with your online newsroom, you can give subject matter experts within your organization a voice to share their knowledge in a way that also helps promote your company or clients. We recently did a presentation with the PRSA
outlining several additional methods to help integrate your online newsroom with social media.
3. Email alerts. Most journalists prefer to receive email announcements as one format for story pitches. Granted, some people not familiar with the process of cultivating targeted email lists might not find a high level of success with this method; however, sending email story pitches to carefully culled lists or through a service such as HARO consistently generates readership and eventual coverage. Business Wire, Vocus, Cision, BurrellesLuce and others have very segmented media directories of hundreds of thousands of opt-in journalists. These databases, when used correctly, are responsible for thousands of news stories being generated by mainstream media each day. Should this be your only method of reaching out to the press? No. Can you ignore this method? In my opinion, it is too successful to be neglected.
4. Web 3.0— the mobile Web. Some say they know what Web 3.0 is. Some say they do not. And then, some say both. No matter the jargon, one thing is clear: The next wave of digital communications and news distribution is going to involve mobile technology. Cell phones, Blackberries, iPhones and iPads, and several products that are still on the drawing board are going to be significant factors in how we interact with each other. By ensuring that your news stories and corporate announcements are available in a wireless, mobile format, you will be better positioned to get your message to a wide audience of stakeholders, influencers and consumers.
In summary, most organizations have great stories to tell. By using some of the above techniques, you can effectively promote your news stories and corporate events by using digital tools to reach out and extend your organization's key messages. This will in turn help build brand loyalty and help you identify influencers within your industry. By marketing your message, you will be able to differentiate yourself and provide a distinct voice in an ever-crowded sea of news.
Steve Momorella is an owner, founder and director of sales and marketing for TEKGROUP, an award-winning Internet software and services company that develops online newsrooms with social media integration, and e-business software solutions.