4 lessons on press release distribution from Google

Last week Google sent out a press release stating that it has purchased Nest for $3.2 billion. Journalists wasted no time in speculating what this could mean for consumers – the New York Times published an interesting piece, but a quick Google search should give you a flavour of popular opinion.

It’s interesting (though by no means exclusive to the Nest purchase) how Google chose to break the news – in a press release, as it always does – and let the journalists themselves do the rest of the work.

The anatomy of a Google press release

The news of the Nest purchase is Google’s first press release of the year, though the Mountain View search giant published no less than 13 last year on its investor.google.com site. If you’ve worked in PR for a while you’ll already know what should and shouldn’t go into a press release, but all of Google’s press releases have a few things in common; all of which are things that should be considered if press releases are part of your digital marketing strategy.

1. No links

There are no links whatsoever in the Nest press release, and that’s because there is no other official way to consume this news – any other coverage comes from journalists, who know where to link back to (the original source of the news, investor.google.com).

The only reason you should be using a link in a press release is to direct a journalist to a useful resource – that could be where you want that link pointing, but the worst thing you can do is to advise them on anchor text. That’s how your press releases harm your site, and journalists don’t need your advice anyway.

If Google wants to define a natural link, their best bet is to see how journalists on sites like TechCrunch and Gawker are linking to their sources, because it’s pretty much a guarantee that any input from a linkbuilder isn’t going to go down well.

2. It’s published on Google.com

Assuming that journalists will attribute their information to its original source, that source has to be on your site, or alternatively arrive in the journalist’s inbox directly from your company. It’s just not enough to include contact information at the end of the release and hope that a journo gets in contact with you, asking where they should point their link – it never happens that way. Your best bet is to follow up a mention and reach out to the site, but it’s far from a guarantee.

If you’re using press releases as a link building tactic (there are better ways to get your news covered by the media, and there are much better uses of your budget than press release syndication), then you need to have a different way to consume that news for journalists to link to. Google does it with Podcasts/Google+. If you have to syndicate your press release (and Matt Cutts says there’s no point doing it to get links), at least make sure your site is the official source, and that there’s something on there that adds value to the story.

3. It’s short and to the point

Thousands of column inches have already been devoted to the Nest purchase, and yet the press release is less than 250 words. No SEO manager worth his salt would dare to syndicate a press release that short, so is it a case of one rule for Google and another for everyone else?

Yes and no: part of the fact is that there’s an entire industry that will wax lyrical about every single thing Google does, so they don’t need to write reams and reams themselves – but if your release is interesting enough to get covered by a journalist they will only want the facts.

Take a standard sentence structure and replicate this: {subject}, {verb}, {object}. {Google} {buys} {Nest}.

Google doesn’t need to talk about itself, it’s putting out the press release, and hosting it on a whole site dedicated to information about Google. Since Nest might not mean anything to Google’s investors, the release expands on this a little. All that remains is a quote from each party that can be used by journalists if they choose to cover the news.

A press release should answer: who? what? when? where? why? If you start asking “what does it mean?” you’ve gone too far.

4. It’s newsworthy

Which brings us on to the next fundamental of press releases: it has to mean something. If it’s not real news, nobody wants to read it. Nobody wants to read it in your press release, and that includes journalists, some of whom spend all day looking at press releases. Certainly nobody who reads said journalist’s publication is going to be interested in reading it.

It might be stating the obvious, so I won’t go into too much detail. It might get you penalised; it might not. What it won’t get you is PR.

If you’re interested in getting covered by the biggest publications in your industry get in touch.

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