PR Wars Podcast: What am I searching for?

News magazines have fundamentally changed the way they select stories when they moved from print to online. Find out how to optimize your press release using Google Trends to capture more attention.

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Announcer: It’s time. Welcome to PR wars coming to you live from Atlanta, Georgia. Now, here is your host, Chris Shigas.

Chris Shigas: Everyone thank you for joining PR wars. This is Chris Shigas. How are you? Alright, you hanging in there? Yeah, moving forward, deciding what to do with your plans now that 2020 has been such a difficult year. And now we have to figure out how to move forward in all this, don’t we? We have to figure out how to be proactive.

We’re going to talk a little bit today about how news organizations are deciding which news to cover. They’re receiving hundreds if not thousands of press releases from people like us, and they’re deciding which press release should make the news. We’re going to talk a little bit about how that has fundamentally changed over the past five years. This is going to blow your mind. This is something you really need to know if you’re going to be successful in a proactive campaign.

I come from an old school background. I come from local television news decades ago. Every morning we would gather around a table of producers, the news director, and reporters. We would look at all the stories of the day that we could cover and make decisions based on how important we thought a particular story was. That old school newsworthiness test. And what happened at some point in the late 1990s, a lot of consultants came in and got news outlets to think about their target audiences. Who were they trying to attract in the Nielsen ratings? What were advertisers buying so that your news organization could be successful? And it really did fundamentally change how news stories were covered and which news stories we decided to cover as a news organization.

Well, what we’ve seen in the past five years has fundamentally changed that. When you look at the amount of news that’s out there. Yet all we hear are that news organizations are struggling, and they’re letting reporters go. The press pool is shrinking and shrinking. But yet, a lot of outlets have changed the way they publish, and how they reach you… a news consumer.

No area has the change been greater than in news magazines. In the old days, you used to get a Time magazine or you would get a Newsweek. You would read through it for the content and the stories and you’d read the variety of stories in the magazine. Well, that’s not how we consume news anymore. People don’t buy magazines. Lots of magazines have even stopped publishing the magazine in print and they’ve moved to online.

Yet, it’s not like consumers now go to a website, like US News and World Report or Business Week and read all the stories on that website. That’s not how it works. Now we receive our news through our news feeds. What is somebody sharing through social media? Or if I’m interested in a topic, and I search it on Google, which news stories pop up based on that search query? This is the new environment that publishers are trying to capture. And it’s all about clicks.

So if you are an editor, and you’re trying to decide what stories to put in your publication, it’s not based as a collection of stories, but it’s each individual story now… because that’s how people are consuming news. You have to make a decision as an editor. If you’re going to cover a story… Will that story ever be shared or be searched for? And how will that story be found?

Now, first of all, we know that there are fewer reporters in the world today. When you create media lists to put out your press releases, you can tell if your media list is more than three months old… I bet you you’re getting a lot of bounce backs. That’s why we have to keep our media list up to date and fresh.

Yet, you see fewer and fewer reporters who work for a publication, but more and more freelancers who are being paid by the story, or they’re being paid by the word. And they’re not focused just on one publication. They might have multiple publications. Maybe there’s a writer who writes for Forbes, but they also write for The New Yorker.

And we’re seeing this more and more and more. So here’s what’s going to blow your mind how a news publication online has to select their stories. A freelance reporter may say, I have a couple of really good story ideas, and pitch that magazine editor. The magazine will then take those story ideas and see how many searches are being done on that story. And then choose between the stories for the ones that rank the best in search engine optimization. And then, they pay the freelancer, by the story or by the word to write a story based on those search engine optimization results. Because if a magazine pays for a very interesting story, but no one is searching for that story, then that story will never be read. And that magazine won’t be able to sell advertising based on those views.

Now, it’s critical that you look at your own press releases, and decide are they search engine optimized? Are people actually looking for the content that you’re putting out there. There are a lot of sites that can help you get a handle on this. The one I like to use is called Google Trends. And Google Trends provides you this information for free. You can put in the subject matter of your press release. You can see how many times it’s being searched for, and the exact queries that people are putting into Google search to come up with this information. All of this is valuable data. You can compare it to other topics.

And what does this mean for you? Let’s just say you are doing public relations for a medical device company and you have a new product. You may not want to use the name of this product in your headline as the hook, right? Even though this announcement is for a new product. What may get more search results are perhaps the medical conditions that this product treats. And let’s just say this product treats more than one condition, you may want to look and see which condition is being searched for the most. Not only will you get more pickup on your press release, but more people will actually search and find your information… because more people are googling for that query.

This is a 180 degree change from how we selected news stories in the past. This is where it’s going. These publications have to stay alive. They stay alive by selling advertising. They sell advertising by selling clicks and views. So the stories that they publish have to be shareable with clicks and views about topics that people are searching for now.

So the next time you’re reading a press release, think about search engine optimization. Run some searches. Run some tests yourself. Find out what people are searching for. If you’re able to highlight the topics that people are searching for, you’re going to have more freelancers interested in your story. Freelancers are going to be able to sell your story to their news magazines, and you’re gonna get more coverage and reach more customers.

Now, go get em’!

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