What is a Positioning Release?

Most of us are familiar with the new product press release. Not nearly as many are familiar with the positioning release, which will be the focus of this blog post. Historically, the press release has been used by companies to introduce new products and services to the media. In the recent past, this generally meant sending the release to an editor or journalist either via email or the newswire.

The new-product orientation of a press release means that news distribution is generally dictated by the number of new products launched. Because most companies can’t or don’t launch new products weekly or monthly, new product press release distribution by nature is sporadic at best.

Since staying top of mind with media influencers (editors, bloggers, etc.) can mean the difference between getting mentioned or not in editorial coverage such as a roundup story, it’s important to create a regular cadence of information that keeps your brand top of mind with editors and influencers.

Enter the positioning release. It’s a document that is sent to media influencers that is written and formatted like a press release, without the purpose of announcing a new product. A positioning release is used to reinforce or build awareness of the essence of your brand or product while relaying new information about your brand or product to create value and relevance.

A positioning release is intended to fill in the visibility gaps that can occur between formal product news release announcements, but in a way that still adds value to the reader. A good example of a positioning release would be one focused on a customer use case of one of your current products, leveraging the value in a customer’s testimonial or endorsement of the product or service.

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Since staying top-of-mind with editorial influencers is one of the keys to consistent earned media coverage, the positioning release non-intrusively reinforces the core value proposition of your brand or product by giving the editor a compelling context as to the viability of your product to the market he/she writes about. By leveraging the value in a user’s story or endorsement of the product in a positioning release, you create a connection to the viability of the product with regards to the market, and as a product that is in use by customers in that market.

Here’s how you would go about creating a brand advocate positioning release. First, look through your customer database to find a brand advocate that you know uses and loves your product. If you don’t have a formal list of these types of customers, you can also monitor your social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter to find customers who contribute comments to share their positive experiences with your product.

Next, reach out to that customer in an initial call or email to find out if they are authentically enthused about the product. Assuming they are, the next step is to schedule a brief phone interview with them. In this interview, use a list of prepared questions that highlights not only their enthusiasm for the product or brand but also elicits comments that reinforce core branding attributes.

Capture key customer comments from the interview that you can use as quotes in the positioning release. The positioning release copy could start with a paragraph about the product and its key features and its benefits. Then, finish the paragraph with a quote from the customer that reinforces the value in that feature/benefit from the customer’s perspective.

It’s important to remember that a positioning release is intended to inform and educate, not be a hard-sales piece. So resist the temptation to include sales-speak and hyperbole and just stick to the facts. A primary goal of the positioning release is to highlight your customer’s enthusiasm for the product and/or brand. Use links to your website in the release to follow-through on any sales opportunities created.

Once you’ve created the release (and don’t forget to get your customer’s approval before any further steps), you’ll need to prepare it for distribution. I recommend two key ways to do this, as well as one to avoid.

First, since the positioning release is intended to influence the influencers (editors, bloggers), get a list of these influencers (if you don’t already have it) and email it to them directly in a personalized manner. A very important point: editors get hundreds of emails every day, and most are either nonrelevant (blast email pitches) or veiled sales pitches. Not only will these get ignored, but they will also get you black-listed, diminishing the chance for any coverage down the road.

Send the positioning release with a very brief introduction to the editor. It’s best to include the text of the positioning release in the body of the email. Note that it’s considered a PR best practice to avoid sending email attachments in general unless the editor has asked for it.

It’s also a best practice not to send a follow-up email to the editor to find out if he/she got the release. There are two digital PR practices I use to help gain insight into whether or not an editor has taken an interest. You can use an email service such as Drip or MailChimp to send the email. Both of these services offer back-end analytics that indicates if the email has been opened, and how many times.

A second digital PR approach to analytics is to use Bit.ly for any links in the release. A Bit.ly link will track clicks on a link in the email, which also will tell you whether or not an editor has taken an interest. You can generally assume if the link was clicked, there was a level of interest that triggered the action.

Another way to leverage the visibility and value of the release is to put it on your website, whether in the form of a blog post, or a dedicated link from a Press area of your site. This is always a good step to take with any release – Press Release or Positioning Release – as it helps with SEO because the Google indexing process likes to see content updated on the website regularly, and all the better if that content is deemed relevant, meaning it has contextual value to the products or services you sell.

Finally, I recommend that you avoid putting the release on the newswire. Putting a news release on the newswire is still a common and costly mistake that many companies make. It’s one that will result in little value with regards to the goal of the release as a positioning tool. Google’s latest algorithm ignores press releases distributed via the newswire, so there is little if any SEO value in doing this.

Additionally, a newswire distribution, particularly one with a wide net target such as the entire U.S. can quickly become very expensive. Especially if the release is over 400 words, as newswire services charge more for longer releases. So in general, it’s a best practice to avoid using the newswire for positioning releases.

In summary, the goal of a release distribution strategy is to create a regular cadence of relevant information for the influencers who can publish the release or include the information in a roundup story. In a Digital PR strategy, a positioning release is a great way to to go to fill in the natural editorial gaps that will happen as your product introduction cycles dictate when to send official new product announcements via a press release.

Bill Threlkeld is president of Threlkeld Communications, a content digital marketing and public relations advisory based in Santa Monica, California. Threlkeld Communications specializes in content ecosystem campaigns, also known as the Content Distribution Ecosystem, a unique content approach that synchronizes and integrates PR, Social Media, Blogs, Audio, Video, Email Marketing and other content marketing components for systematic distribution and measurable results.

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