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Press releases have been around for over 100 years, so it’s natural that when organizations think of ways to share news, they default to a press release.

While press releases can be effective, they are not the only tool available to marketers in an age of social PR. Organizations need to look for other ways to share their their information and realize that poorly executed releases really do more harm than good.

Google announced changes to the link building scheme in July 2013 and reported that links with optimized anchor text in press releases would be in violation. That change facilitated  a larger discussion on press releases and how to do them properly, which was long overdue.  Often, press releases were being issued with little thought to the actual news value or they were being used to support SEO. The end result were a high number of releases that were simply not useful to the media.

Do You REALLY Need a Press Release?

It’s time for every organization issuing press releases to carefully assess if they are needed and consider alternatives. There are times when a press release is appropriate, such as financial news or major corporate announcements, but the majority of the time another tactic will be more effective.

The news release is simply a way to package your story and share it with the world.  Now, thanks to social media and the web, you no longer need to rely on journalists to tell your story. Instead of chasing after media hoping they will pick up your release, social PR puts you into the driver’s seat. Your organization is now the publisher and you have countless channels you can use to share stories directly with your target audience.

Here are five ways you can ditch the press release and reach your target audience:

Turn it into a Blog Post or Guest Post

When issuing a press release, the idea is to be able to share a story with media so they in turn will write a story that your customers, partners and other stakeholders will read. By turning your story into a blog post, it forces you to tell a better story with more context, doing what the journalist would have done for you. By playing publisher and sharing it on your blog (or as a guest post on a high visibility site in your industry) you are able to control the message and connect with those who are most interested in reading it.

Break News Up Into Social Updates

A press release when issued usually is posted to your site, distributed by newswire service and then shared on social media.  Go beyond the press release by taking key pieces of your story and sharing them via social media. Create tweets that share a link back to your blog post or related resources. Share updates on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ that add value to the bigger picture with your content. And remember, don’t just share things once. If you package your story the right way, it can become an evergreen piece of content you can share for months and possibly years to come.

Create a Video

Video is a highly effective way to share many stories. It can inject emotion and color into something that could otherwise be quite dull. For example, if your organization is announcing you’ve donated money to a local charity, instead of issuing a boring, factual release, why not create a video featuring stories of the organization you are helping? If you are launching a product, sharing stories of users and how this is helping their business is far more engaging than reading a product’s feature list. Videos can then be shared on your web site and via YouTube and other platforms to maximize their reach.

Use Stunning Visuals

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially on social media. It’s been proven time and time again that visual content gets more likes and shares.  A recent infographic from Infographic B2B indicated that photos are shared two times more than text only updates and our brains simply process visual content faster than text. Infographics are an ideal way to present research, share new product information or simply tell a story. Beyond the infographic, think of how you can use a picture with a text overlay to present the story visually and bring it to life.

Pitch the Media One-on-One

The goal of a press releases is to secure media coverage.  However, pumping out a release and hoping that the media see it is not strategic. If you truly have news, carefully research who covers this area, what type of stories they write, how best to contact them and create a customized story pitch just for them. Perhaps you have a customer that is using your product in an innovative way and has increased profits. A reporter covering that topic or a trade magazine may be interested in this type of story if you take the time to carefully craft the story so it is a fit for their needs and audience.  A personalized, well planned pitch sent by email will always be more effective at getting their attention than a generic press release.

Next time talk of a press release starts within your organization, carefully consider the audience and goals for sharing this particular story. Decide if your story is newsworthy and a press release is truly the right way to present this information. The options above provide some great alternatives that you can use to package a compelling story and actually reach your target audience.