This post was first published by Martin Jones on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

Not so long ago, the press release was the be all and end all of any outbound influencer relations. PR firms would fire the release out to the influencer list and interested journalists would rely on the press release to write their own version of the story.

These days, press releases deliver on multiple levels for technology companies.

The fact is that the role of releases as sources of news is much diminished. While they often serve as a great mechanism for getting approval on the parameters of an announcement, theyoffer little value in terms of getting that story into print (or more likely, onto pixel). That level of engagement now requires extensive research and drafting micro-pitches to influencers on an individual basis.

Much of the value of press releases these days is online, because they can be syndicated out to multiple news sites and generate search engine optimization (SEO) value as a result. This is where strategic keyword strategies across a company website can work together with press releases and other syndicated content.

But to really get the most value out of this new arrangement, businesses need to realize PR and content marketing have come together.

Press releases are no longer just a way to educate third parties, such as the media. Now, they’re often seen directly by companies’ actual target audiences, which means a release is an opportunity to educate and engage, as well as capture lead information.

Here are three ways you can use press releases for content marketing:

1. Add more multimedia content to drive audience engagement

A study from PR Newswire showed that press releases with content such as presentations, PDFs or videos can increase views by 48 to 77 percent and triple the number of times the releases are shared. Adding supplemental material can drive engagement and direct people to your website.

2. Leverage through your blog and social media campaigning

Press releases are an obvious source of content for your blog and can be readily repurposed and reused – but get creative! Rather than simply restating the news think, try augmenting with a video interview of the CEO or featured customer, create a white board series that highlights the business value of technical innovation, seek guest contributors to explore different facets of the story, etc.

Press releases should also always be shared through social media channels, but again – think engagement, not just amplification. Businesses can plan ahead and build anticipation by starting conversations in advance, as well as sharing other interesting material related to the announcement after its release.

3. Drive prospects to download longer-form content

If businesses start using links in press releases, they can send interested readers to eBooks, PDFs, guides or other long-form content. This content can be email-gated, too, so that you can gather information about visitors who are interested in learning more about the product or service and follow up with them later.

Using the Press Release as a Gateway

These days, press releases aren’t just great ways to educate media and industry thought leaders, they can directly connect with prospects, too. To adapt, PR firms are going to have to acknowledge the growing power of content marketing and start keeping those principles in mind whenever they’re writing their next release.

If done right, press releases won’t just build a brand and awareness – they may end up building business, too.