What exactly is a brand and how does it contribute to the success (or detriment) of your business? And how can you use press releases to help build your online brand?

Technically speaking, a brand is like a “trademark”: a name, term, design, symbol or other feature that distinguishes one seller’s product from those of others. But what a brand really is – and what it should mean to you – is what people think of when they hear your company or product name. It could be factual (“it comes in a purple package”; “delivery takes only two days”) or emotional (“it makes me feel attractive”; “they’re great people to work with”).

Today’s Press Releases Facilitate Conversations

Not too long ago the objective of a press release was to make an announcement – about a new product, executive appointment, etc. Now, in addition to reaching target media with your ‘hard news’, press releases are about facilitating the ongoing conversation in an always-on multi-channel world. They can be very effective as direct-to-consumer content marketing assets and are a great tool to build relationships with people who can influence how your audience perceives your brand.

From embedded multimedia to social sharing links to hyperlinks that provide supportive information, press releases are a great vehicle to send your content to a wide number of people as well as to hyper-targeted audiences with a single click.

How to Turn Your Press Releases into Branding Tools

Through press releases, you can regularly get your content in front of the people who matter to your business and helps demonstrate your organization’s credibility and value. To make your releases work as effectively as possible as online branding tools, follow these rules of thumb:

Know your audience

Before you craft your message, take time to gain an understanding of your target audience – people who will read and care about your news and share it with others. There are a host of paid and free tools to help you accomplish this. Twitter Search is a free tool you can to search for topic keywords or hashtags that reveal ongoing Twitter conversations about breaking news and personal perspectives. Through Twitter Advanced Search you can find more in-depth information such as what your potential audience thinks about a competitor’s service or product, and even zero in on people who are looking for your type of product or service by geographic area. These insights will guide you in presenting your content in a way that resonates with people.

Provide valuable, relevant content

You probably have digital assets such as white papers, articles, blog posts and e-books your target audience would find of value. Press releases are a great way to get this content into the hands of the right people at the right time. A news distribution service will also get your release posted on a wide variety of online sites, essentially “syndicating” your content and extending its lifespan. In addition, links in your release that go back to your website (e.g., for an asset download) to further engage people with your brand and can capture sales leads.

Make your releases shareable

Press releases can help amplify a brand’s social media presence. To boost their effectiveness as a brand-building tool they need to be meaningful, interactive and contextual to get read and shared by your entire sphere of influencers.

Today’s releases typically incorporate links to a variety of social channels so they’re easy to share. Plus, when you include a hashtag in the body of your press release you make it easy for people to share your content with the most appropriate social conversations. If there’s a social media channel you’d like to reach, write your press release to fit the ‘voice’ of that channel. This creates a “pull” versus a “push” effect as your social community members share your content with their own networks.

Make your releases findable

Press releases are no longer the link-building SEO tools they were just a few years ago due to Google’s 2013 algorithm change that mandated a ‘no-follow’ code be added to each link. But you can still use links and keywords in your release to boost your brand’s online visibility. Here are three ways to make your releases more findable:

  • Use the most popular keyword phrase in the headline, pick one to three relevant keywords and repeat them at least three times in the release. Add a couple of hyperlinks in the first two paragraphs of your release that go to appropriate pages on your website.
  • Add multimedia elements – images, video – for distribution to more online sites with a longer shelf life. Releases with multimedia also get used and shared more often.
  • Encourage social sharing. This contributes to search engine ranking, though Google hasn’t let on much about this except to say that ‘social signals’ across key social media platforms are an obvious validation of quality.

The bottom line is not to get bogged down into keyword and link details, but to drive conversations by getting people to read and share your content.

Keep Your Perspective

While press releases are a great tool to help build your online brand, they are only one part of your brand growth strategy. A single release, like a single blog post, won’t make a lot of difference. But your consistent, expert voice expressed through press releases conveying information that your audience values will help you forge a relationship with the people who matter to the success of your business and your online brand.

Read more: How To Write An Effective Press Release