Press releases are funny things. You’re running a business or having an event, and you want to make sure the world knows about it, right? Many times, sending out a press release to folks in the media is exactly the right thing to do. You call them to follow up, keep your positive relationship in check, and you see your announcement in print in the next few days.
There are times, however, when a press release can be a little bit more, when it can take on a life of its own and be a big part of generating excitement about your product, event, or announcement. In those instances, consider having an interactive press release.
I’ve worked with a number of companies who have gone to great expense to rebrand themselves by revising their websites. This is often a long process during which a business or agency reviews each aspect of its virtual presence. Each hyperlink and every article are reviewed for accuracy, detail, and with an eye to branding. If you’re going to that kind of trouble – not to mention that kind of cost – don’t you want people to notice?
In those cases, I encourage clients to have an interactive press release. For website launches, or relaunches, reserve a space large enough to accommodate a bank of computers with strong internet connectivity. Consider scheduling the event during an afternoon on a Tuesday or Thursday, which are often slower times of the news cycle. Add festive touches like balloons and collaborative marketing materials, such as brochures, small items to give away, and banners. If your budget allows, go to the expense of including refreshments for your event. I’ve found that free food can be as powerful as hard-hitting news to get members of the media to be present at an event.
Once organized, the event should be light on presentations and heavy on opportunities for those in the media to use the new website. Make the agenda available, and stick to it. If you’re going to have speakers, give each one a set time limit to make their presentation. Avoid the temptation to provide everyone with 10 minutes at the microphone. What often happens in those cases is that the message is simply repeated. Again, you want the media to use the new tools you have provided.
After the presentation, have experts on hand, including those from the company that helped design the website, if possible, to answer questions and to help guide others through the newest and latest changes. Encourage them to use all of the new bells and whistles. Are there interactive opportunities? Go through the steps for each of them. Having the bank of computers available will give everyone an opportunity to take the new wheels for a test drive.
I have seen this happen with great success with a municipal government in the North Alabama region. After an extensive revision of the city’s website, the decision was made to invite members of the media to a city facility for a hands-on demonstration of the new product. I found this to be extremely effective as the site was much more user-friendly, but, as an added benefit, municipal officials, many of whom are elected, were able to be very transparent about how the tax dollars of their residents were spent in order to make the site more modern and up-to-date as well as infinitely more usable. The media coverage was also very positive, and new user traffic to the site more than doubled in a very short time. Residents were also able to provide feedback to the municipal IT department for further improvements to the site. This interaction allowed for an entirely new way to communicate between an entity and those it serves.
And who doesn’t love a good website?
Interactive press releases have also worked rather well with announcements related to milestones. A hospital in Florence, Alabama, Eliza Coffee Memorial, or ECM, has just celebrated its 99th birthday, and, while that might not seem like the anniversary that turning 100 would, it was significant to celebrate it as it is the last milestone that will be celebrated in its current site. Later this year, ECM will be vacated as the new North Alabama Medical Center opens in a new location. Members of the media were on hand to see how health care has changed over the course of the last very nearly 10 decades, and invitations were sent those members of the community. The event was well-attended, and it allowed an historic site to have one more positive interaction with members of the community before its shuttered.
Regardless of the type of interactive press release you choose to do, there are a variety of opportunities to present your news to the community. Some very important details to keep in mind include:
- Import of event. If large-scale dollars have been spent, consider bringing others in to see what’s new. Can members of the media touch and feel or see the change? If so, it might be worth taking the next steps.
- Event planning. Give yourself a timeline and detailed planning to follow. If you’re working with a committee, consider starting the process two months out. You need time to reserve location spaces, hire caterers, and send invitations. If done hastily, it will be evident.
- Budgeting. Interactive press releases can get very expensive very quickly. Give yourself a budget to follow so that, if asked about the return on your investment, you’ll be able to answer with real dollars.
- Advertising your event. If you’re inviting members of the community, simply create a Facebook event. Invitations, that include printing and postage, can become costly. Be sure to factor advertising the event into your overall budget.
- Have fun! While the event planning can be stressful, give yourself time to enjoy the event, too. Website launches and milestone birthdays don’t happen frequently. Enjoy them.
Of course, Ad4! is here to assist you through the development of your interactive press release. We can provide the platforms to create or relaunch your website as well as planning the media blitz surrounding that event. Let us grow with you!