Monthly Archives: May 2016

Why do most blog sites fail?

Shooting target with word blogging made in 2d software

Creating a blog may seem like a daunting task, but with tools and platforms available online such as WordPress, Blogger, Joomla, TypePad and Tumblr, the process has never been simpler. BUT, bloggers BEWARE, creating a successful blog is no picnic. Millions of blogs are published every day, yet only a small percentage of them are successful. So, why do most blogs fail? Please read on:

Blog Content

It’s all well and good, in theory, to write about a subject you are passionate and knowledgeable about, but what many bloggers fail to recognise is that their interests aren’t always the same as those of their audience. Successful blogging comes from content that is engaging and valuable to the reader in some way. For example, the focus may be to expand the readers’ knowledge, provide inspiration, or provide a solution to a problem. Whatever direction the content takes, it should be focussed on the reader and what the reader can gain from reading your blog.

Time

Creating lots of content is great if you already have a successful blog, but if you are struggling to get readers it just doesn’t make sense to spend the majority of your time and effort creating frequent blogs only for them to be read by a small group of people. Writing content, however amazing it may be, will not attract readers on a large scale. Time must be dedicated to promoting the blogs you have already written. As readership grows, the number of blogs you write should grow in proportion. This will keep your existing and new readers interested.

Promotion

It is true, to an extent, that posting your blog on social media platforms will increase your audience figures. However, if this is your only form of blog promotion I would hazard a guess that you haven’t got the audience figures you were expecting. Finding the best ways to promote your material is key. If you haven’t already, add relevant sharing buttons on your blog to enable your readers to share your blog content with their friends. You can also promote your material by guest blogging on popular blogs that target your ideal audience already. Also, be sure to embrace outside experts. Alliances with experts can help build blog credibility and also bring value to your audience. For more information on blog promotion, please take a look at ‘How to get my first 1,000 blog readers’.

 Strategy

So, we’ve established that creating a blog is fairly straightforward, but there is a snag. Most bloggers intending to create a blog as a business don’t actually know much about business and overlook the important step of creating a strategy. This can be fatal for your blog. It’s imperative to create a business strategy that covers all of the marketing steps you need to take to make sure you are creating credible content that your audience wants to read and share, and promoting it effectively so as to gain new readers. A quarterly marketing plan is very effective.

 To sum up

Millions of blogs are being posted on line every day, so if you want yours to count you need to create a blog that is out of this world in terms of content and promotional strategy. Evaluate your business against some of the best to get an idea of how far you need to go to meet your target. One thing is for sure, you will need to put in a serious amount of hours if you want to see results. Creating a blog is definitely not for the fainthearted.

 

 

 

 

How to Distribute Press Releases in a Digital World

A tablet computer on a desk - Press Release

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In my previous article we debated whether the press release still had a place since we are increasingly accessing information online. It would be a bit rude to say that “yes press releases are still important” but then fail to elaborate as to the avenues of online distribution, so this blog covers just that.

The main channels for press release distribution on the internet are:

  • Newswires – these are online press release and content distribution services that share information with a number of people including journalists and bloggers. The main advantage of a newswire is that journalists have subscribed to receive information that’s relevant to them based on pre-defined keywords and topics.  They can also use the service to look for facts and figures to back up their articles.  As a new business, newswires can be a great way to distribute news and company information before you have a refined and nurtured list of journalists at your disposal.

The main downside of newswires is that your release is in amongst thousands of others; therefore it needs to be extremely relevant if you are to make it stand out. Also, subscribing to a newswire service isn’t free, so you need to decide if the investment is really worth it. Bear in mind the information held by newswires can be helpful to you too.  With pretty much all newswire services you can also choose to receive news that’s relevant to you.  This is a fantastic way to stay on top of your competitors and industry news without having to trawl the web every day and allows you to react and counteract as quickly as possible.

  • Social Media – Journalists who cover your industry are likely to be keeping track of yours, and your competitors, social media platforms. If you have a list of key journalists that you want to cover your stories then take a look to see if they are on your list of followers. If not, call or send them an email with a link to your page suggesting they do so in order to keep up to date with your latest news. When you’ve got journalists following you that’s a great incentive to keep your feeds up to date with relevant, newsworthy information.News on your social media will obviously be short and sharp posts or videos with links through to the main article, so make sure there’s enough information to temp journalists to read on.

 

  • Company Website – ultimately this is the place where all your press releases should be held and linked to. Not only is the amount of information you store here under your complete control, but it’s also branded. Make the news section of your website straightforward to find and make its content easy to share with clearly visible social media buttons.  There’s no need to make this area exclusive to journalists or word its content in a way that deters the general public – you want as many people to see and share the information as possible.

It’s important to remember that although the internet provides many opportunities for getting your press releases noticed, it relies on journalists and bloggers searching to find it.  Internet distribution may offer a fast solution, however it may not always be the most effective and shouldn’t be a substitution for relationship building with the journalists you are keen to cover your stories.  Many journalists still prefer the personal touch and to be approached direct.

When targeting journalists directly, first get to know the type of stories they like to cover. You’ll increase your chance of coverage by playing to their likes and dislikes. When you pitch your release, keep it brief and to the point, ensuring you cover your five ‘W’s – who, what, when, where, why – then provide a link to where they can find the full release.  Consider whether you want to offer them exclusivity as this can be a real carrot if you have a good story.

Press Releases vs Content Marketing

A tablet computer on a desk - Press Release

A lot has changed in the world of PR since I submitted my first press release over 15 years ago.  I scoured through trade magazines for contact details, I painstakingly emailed each editor/journalist with a carefully drafted, personalised message and under no circumstances did I include photos in case they a) maxed out inboxes b) bounced back or c) just irritated said editor as the email/photo took so damn long to download.

Thankfully things have changed since then, but with today’s online-heavy marketing strategies is there still room for the humble press release?

Well, although there has been a steady decline in popularity and regard to importance, it certainly seems there still is.  The Chartered Institute of Public Relations defines a press release as:

“A statement describing an event or item which is considered to be of sufficient interest to readers/viewers/listeners for an editor to publish reference to it.”

So, it’s the way people distribute and access releases that has changed; the premise behind their existence remains the same. With that in mind, a press release would form part of your overall content strategy, specifically focusing on topics such as product launches and updates, industry award achievements, joint ventures, notable events, high level movers and shakers, agency hiring and positive business results. Anything with a good hook, that’s newsworthy and that a journalist or blogger may be interested in.

There is a fine line between content marketing and press releases though, and often the two overlap slightly.  After all, a press release released online is also just as accessible to the general public as a journalist.  And to be fair, the more the merrier certainly applies with regards to whom it’s viewed by.

Here are some key points to consider when writing a press release for online distribution:

  • Optimise your content, in particular your heading. Just as with your other content, your press releases will have a better chance of being picked up by the search engines if they have been optimised. In the eyes of Google that means: quality content that is highly relevant and targeted to your audience. See our previous blog How to write content not keywords for more guidance on how you can do this.
  • Write for a journalist, but take into consideration the wider audience. Journalists want a press release to be to the point, informative and engaging.  Cut to the chase in the first paragraph, getting across the essence and key facts, and then use the rest of the release to expand on the story. But consider that as your release is online it has the potential to be seen by anyone, so make sure it is just as engaging for consumers.
  • Ensure inclusion of social media buttons. This enables sharing and also makes it easy for journalists to follow you if they like what they’ve seen. If they start following you they’re more likely top pick up on other company news.
  • Include hyperlinks, but don’t go over the top. It’s important to provide journalists with clear links to sources and webpages that contain further information.   Bear in mind though that too many hyperlinks will set alarm bells ringing for the likes of Google and will likely have a negative impact on your SEO positioning.
  • Get creative! I had it drummed into me that a press release should be written in Times New Roman, 14 pt with double line spacing. Never, ever, ever with pictures. You can do what you like online! Make the most of imagery, videos, audio; whatever you like that will add value and enhance your message. Once shunned, the inclusion of imagery it is now expected, but don’t forget to ensure they are also optimised.

Finally, your press release shouldn’t be a one off. They’re a great way to build a relationship between your company and the media, therefore regular, relevant releases should be scheduled into your content strategy for maximum impact.

So, the lesson to take from this is that done properly there is definitely still a place for press releases and they make a great part of any online content strategy, helping to drive awareness, website traffic and social media followers.