If you are developing a news release program to reach buyers directly, you need to think like a publisher and understand your audience first and then set about to satisfy their informational needs.
A great way to start thinking like a publisher and to create news releases that drive action is to focus on your customers' problems and then create and deliver news releases accordingly. Use the words and phrases that your buyers use. Think about how the people you want to reach are searching, and develop news release content that includes those words and phrases. Don't be egotistical and write only about your organization. What are your buyers' problems? What do they want to know? What words and phrases do they use to describe these problems?
Here is another fascinating case study that will appear in my upcoming book The New Rules of Marketing and PR.
CruiseCompete.com, cited in the October 2006 issue of Kiplinger as one of the 25 Best Travel Sites, helps people secure quotes for cruises from multiple travel agencies, based on the dates and ports specified. CruiseCompete.com is a great example of a company that uses news releases to reach people based on the phrases that their buyers are searching with.
In October 2006, for example, during the lead-up to the holiday season, the company issued a news release via Market Wire with the headline Cruise Lines Set Sail With Hot Holiday Vacation Prices. Importantly, part of an early sentence in the release, "…some seven-night vacations can be booked for well under $1,000 per person, including Thanksgiving cruises, Christmas cruises and New Year's cruises," included three critical phrases. Not only did this release's mention of "Thanksgiving cruises," "Christmas cruises," and "New Year's cruises" generate traffic from users searching on these common phrases, it also helped guide searchers into the sales cycle; each of the three phrases in the news release was hyperlinked to a purpose-built landing page on the CruiseCompete.com site that displayed the holiday cruise deals. Anyone who clicked on the Christmas cruises link was taken directly to deals for Christmas cruises. And the bump that the links in the news release gave to the three landing pages helped those pages reach the top of the Google Web search results lists.
"We know that people have thought about traveling for the holidays," says Heidi M. Allison-Shane, a consultant working with CruiseCompete.com. "We use the news releases to communicate with consumers that now is the time to book, because there are dynamite prices and they will sell out." Allison-Shane makes sure that CruiseCompete includes the ideal phrases in each new release and that each release has appropriate links to the site. This strategy makes reaching potential customers a matter of "simply understanding what people are likely to be searching on and then linking them to the correct page on the site where we have the content that’s relevant," she says. "We try to be useful with the right content and to be focused on what’s relevant for our consumers and to provide the links that they need. This stuff is not difficult."
The CruiseCompete.com news release program produces results by increasing the Google rankings for the site. But the news releases also reach buyers directly as those buyers search on relevant phrases. "Each time we send a targeted news release, we see a spike in the Web traffic on the site," Allison-Shane says.
As you craft your own phrases to use in your news releases, don't get trapped by your own jargon; think, speak, and write like your customers do. Though you may have a well-developed lexicon for your products and services, these words don't necessarily mean much to your potential customers. As you write news releases (or any other form of Web content), focus on the words and phrases that your buyers use. As a search engine marketing tool, news releases are only as valuable as the keywords and phrases that are contained in them.