Viral Information: Interactive Press Releases Really Spread the Word

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Injecting tried-and-true press releases with new web capabilities, some media services and their law firm clients are using interactivity to make their public announcements much more “Web viral-ready.”

“With the growth of social media and the emergence of Web 2.0, we are ready with the tools to build further social and business connections,” says Lauren Culley, marketing manager at Boughton Law Corp. in Vancouver, British Columbia, which regularly embeds social media elements in its press releases. “We aim to create content that attracts attention and encourages visitors to share content with the social networks.”

Posts on blogs, Facebook and the like now appear on social media-enabled press releases, which sport their own comments sections right on the releases. Such releases can also supply tools for bookmarking and sharing interesting information on the dozens of social bookmarking sites, as well as ways to “permalink” and “trackback” other posts to make it easier for the blogosphere to seamlessly discuss breaking news.

Culley says Boughton is so satisfied with the feedback from its social media releases posted using Twitter and Facebook, the firm has no need to circulate the same information via traditional press wire services.

While PR firms have their own formats for social media-enabled releases, firms can simply put one together on their own. Key elements include:

• Comments capability. Enabling readers to post comments on a press release can give the announcement more legs by attracting discussion.

• Social bookmarking. There’s an entire subculture of info and news junkies on the Web who regularly categorize and bookmark items of interest for themselves on free bookmarking services. Free tools like AddThis enable firms to offer quick links to more than three dozen social bookmarking services.

• Link-to-this-page button. This tool makes it effortless for a journalist, blogger or other reader to link to a release from another website, article or blog.

• Email this page to a friend. By now, most companies understand the power of these simple word-of-mouth referrals.

• Permalink. This is a fancy term for a link that will never be changed or moved. It’s the perfect solution for companies that like to feature fresh news on their home pages (a temporary location) while simultaneously storing the release in their archives (a permanent location).

Trackback. A product of the blogosphere, trackbacks are little snippets of code that let posters know that people are talking about their information on another blog. In practice, the commenter—usually a blogger—pastes the law firm’s trackback code into his or her blogging program, and the comment alert is sent back to the law firm press center.

• Supporting images/video link. The mainstream media is always hungry for news video and images; bloggers are even hungrier.

• Link to other company press releases. A quick link to a press release domain makes it easier for journalists and bloggers to dig deeper into the law firm’s story.

• Company press center link. Offering an easy way for readers to get to the heart of a law firm’s publicity apparatus is another no-brainer.

• Press release RSS. A significant percentage of newshounds gather much of their news with Really Simple Syndication readers. A Web designer will know how to quickly code a press release for RSS. Or you can auto-code a release in about five minutes by using Ice Rocket’s free RSS Builder tool.

“We have found utilizing a press release service with links to social media sites is an effective and reasonably affordable way for a firm to promote their firm and services,” says Harry S. Storey, former executive director of the Hiersche, Hayward, Drakeley & Urbach law firm in Addison, Texas, who is now a management consultant in Plano.

“It does not require substantial technical knowledge or equipment beyond that used in … normal operations.”

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