“I get a lot of junk that has no relevance to my magazine. I think people should refine their lists.”  Or, “Our use of press releases is governed by their local relevance.”  These are the kinds of comments we often hear from journalists who are overwhelmed with information but also rely on press releases to do their jobs. 

Good target lists are, and always will be, essential to any successful press release strategy.  (The subject of target lists has gotten much more complicated with the entry of bloggers into the mix but that is a subject I will address another day!) Proven email tactics can help PR professionals target more effectively.  If you’ll indulge me and read on, here are just 3 of the many reasons why i think a little email expertise can improve press release performance and how segmentation fits in… 

1. People’s lives are organized around their inboxes (thus email is the prefered method of recieving releases) but getting there isn’t as easy as it may seem.  (Most traditional wires either don’t go to individual emails, bundle releases in large groups or just go to assignment desks or some similar destination.) Knowing the proper text to image ratio, whitelisting proceedures and design tricks to facilitate good rendering means improving the chances of getting to the inbox and looking good.  (Okay can I brag a bit?  What the heck, its my blog so I’m just gunna… on average, about 75% of email makes it to the inbox.  At PWR, that average is around 95%.)

2. Email is conducive to multi-media components.  I have never understood the tradition of counting words and pricing per image.  With email, there is no reason to debate for hours about which image is most important or argue with the budget master over whether or not you can include video.  Email allows PR professionals to honestly consider which elements are most important and add them all.  It also lets journalists click to download graphics, contact an expert, view a video or read the whole darn thing in French.

3. Back-end reporting capabilities let PR professionals know who opened their release, which links they clicked most frequently, how much time they spent on each page, etc, helping them tweak future efforts for maximum success.  But equally important, analytics let us know where problems lie–who didn’t get the release, what servers blocked your message, and sometimes even what words/phrases/images triggered the problem.   We can then strategize with our clients, or, at a minimum, inform them, in order to make improvements and overcome obstacles.

But proven email tactics, like personalization and triggered delivery, can also be employed and are appropriate depending on the message and audience as well. Segmentation can help you deliver a sophisticated multi-media release that is customized to region/beat at a fraction of the normal cost.  Segmentation allows you to tweak key elements of your release and make it more relevant to each recipient. 

Say, for example, you represent a toy company that conducted a national competition and wants to promote a dozen kids who won across the nation. You could write a release and send it to a national list.  If you’re sending an NMR, you might have a map recipients can click to see the local angle, or, a series of regionally relevant links and images journalists can peruse to find their local winner.  But journalists will still see the national subject line, headline and release text.  These same journalists are busier than ever, coping with staffroom cuts and increased web responsibilities; they rely on good releases to do their job but don’t want to be bombarded with irrelevant information.  They often make quick decisions on what is topical, what can be covered well and quickly. With segmentation, you can simultaneously send regionally specific versions of the release with subject line, headline, first paragraph and perhaps image or other supporting information personalized for region. Although this example suggests a regional segmentation strategy, we have also seen very successful campaigns segmented by beat. 

It is efficient and effective.  In concept, it is nothing new.  PR professionals have been making their releases more beat, region (and in some cases even journalist) specific for years.  What is new is the ability to send highly specific releases that are media rich to a number of targeted journalists with such little additional cost and effort. 

From our little corner of the big press release world we see many things that work, some that fail and some that work very well.  Segmentation has delivered some great results.  Is this something that you would try?  Can you imagine other ways to use this technology on a release?  We love hearing ideas from our friends and clients so please share!