Not Another How to Write Press Releases Article… Or…

The press release is still one of the most important tools of the public relations expert. It still conveys news about a product or company to the media in the simplest, fastest way, and the media professionals, at their turn, still depends on press releases to do their jobs.

There’s no doubt that this tool was (and still is) used abusively by spammers, but the abuse doesn’t diminish the value of a good press release.

The first question you need to ask yourself when you plan distributing a press release is: is your information newsworthy?

Then you have to consider carefully your target public. Is the press release offering answers that cover a real need of the audience?

Certainly you publish a press release because you need media coverage and exposure. That’s your need and we don’t have to debate that. But what you have to understand is that what is newsworthy for you can mean nothing for your target. The fact that your company won a prize for the design of the site is really irrelevant. Good for you, but how does this help your customers?

Don’t expect to get media coverage for any press release you issue. And don’t expect to be able to “make” the journalists publish your story just because you used an expensive press release distribution service.

What makes a good press release?

As I said, your press release needs to convey newsworthy information, which, in addition, is relevant and well timed. In the end a press release is just an interesting story.

To find the tone of the story you need to listen to your audience. They already tell you what they want to know: in their inquiries, in the most frequently asked questions, in thank you notes and so on. You need to take your marketing team and start brainstorming around messages from your clients. This is how you will find the tone for your press release.

To grab the attention of the media you’ll need a good headline. If you lack editorial experience and you don’t have the funds to hire a professional writer (although there are many who could help you and I recommend Laura, Yvonne and Lisa) here is a headline analyzer that will help you determine the emotional marketing value of your title. It’s this “emotional marketing value” the special something you need to score high in the media choice.

Journalists need news that sells so you have to convince them from the start that you know your stuff and that your news will sell.

Your headline should comprise the full message of the story in a few words. You don’t need a long title, and a too short title will not perform well in the search engine positioning results. The title contains your main keywords and a call to action. An example of a good press release title is Chicago Relationship Blogger Conference Brings Virtual Business Into Reality. Note that this title addresses a need while announcing an event and explaining its purpose. It’s also keyword rich – and that was good enough for the press release to rank high in Google News at the time of the distribution.

You need your press release to rank high in Google, more than you need the links you’ll get once you have the press release published on several niche related sites. People use Google Alerts to keep up with the latest news of the industry. A press release that ranks high in Google News will bring you good exposure.

This is the kind of title that does the trick and gets the journalists open your email or read your feed (remember that most journalists receive press releases via email or feeds).

But a good title is not enough. It does grab attention, it does make the journalists open the message, but is your message worth reading too?

You get the chance to prove that with your opening paragraph. Use the inverted pyramid style to convey your message to your readers: start with the conclusion.

The first paragraph should reveal who is sending the news, why, what and where this happens and how; in short, the first paragraph should answer the basic questions: who, what, why, what, where and how. Do that right and the reporter will not mind if you start rambling a bit after.

The reporters change the contents of your release to fit the style of the publications they work for anyway.

There are some things you should avoid when writing your press release, including stereotype formulas like leader in the market, excellent service, high quality and so on. Unless you are a leader in the market (and believe it, the market knows perfectly its leaders, you don’t need to pretend to be one) don’t write something like this. You cannot fool your readers. Believe it!

Avoid jargon terms too, and when you must use them (an industry specific press release) then explain what they mean. Don’t assume that the journalists know each word in the technical dictionary. Don’t assume that your readers know them either. In a nutshell: don’t waste your chances of sending out a clear message by conceiving a heavy press release.

There’s another mistake many companies make and you should avoid that too: do not write company information at the beginning of the press release. There’s a place for that, and that’s at the end of the press release. That’s also the place where you include contact details and any other useful information about you and your company you might think about.

The value of the story is what will gain coverage for your business and not the age of your firm, or its field of expertise. It’s perfectly understandable that when you publish a press release you want to gain public awareness and sell your products and services. But blatant sales pitches have less chances of reaching such results than press releases that describe the real benefits of the product and services you want to sell. So stay away from the best, the cheapest, the one of its kind, the chance of a lifetime clichés.

In my experience short press releases work better than long pieces of rambling material, because short press releases compress the information into short, to the point paragraphs. That saves time for both the journalists and the readers and gives them the needed information faster. The fastest they get the information the faster they react.

The language of the press release should be plain and simple. Plain doesn’t mean ordinary: it means clear. So when you write your press release remember to keep it simple, to the point.

Make a summary of your ideas, write that down and work around it. In my article Secrets of Clear Exchange of Information: Writing Letters I explain how to produce the ideal business letter. Those rules apply to writing press releases too.

After you write your press release, you need to distribute it. There are free channels you could use, like Open PR and paid channels like PRWeb. And certainly, you could always employ Pamil Visions to write and distribute your press releases.

Comments

  1. Agreed. Also, if you are writing press releases, subscribe to the RSS feed at http://www.prnewswire.com. By browsing through press releases like a journalist would, it can help you when you’re writing.

  2. That’s a very good point. prnewswire.com is decent resource, yet not the only one which has a good feed. Btw. I loved your take on Annoying Business Buzzwords and Phrases. :)

  3. Excellent article, Mig! I completely agree with you about keeping it short. Number one, most people don’t have the time or inclination to read a long press release. Number two, a short well written press release should entice the reader to find out more – perhaps by taking them to a website or store, or whatever the case may be. You really know your stuff!

    Thank you again for the link! You are such a sweetheart! :)

    Enjoy your weekend!

    Lisa

  4. Great post! I learned alot…as always on this blog :)
    Much power!

  5. Excellent advice, Mig. So many people/companies want media coverage but don’t realize they need to have something newsworthy to cover.

    I noticed a minor glitch above – Yvonne’s link goes to Laura’s page. Readers looking for a writer would do well with any of those three writers and certainly with you.

  6. Thank you so much, Lillie! I didn’t notice that link. Copy/paste plays tricks on me sometimes. :) I think readers looking for a writer will do well with you too, but I don’t know: do you write press releases?

  7. Wow, Mihaela! Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  8. :) It was my pleasure.

  9. Thanks for recommending me Mig. Coming from you that means a lot. The headline analyzer looks interesting too. :)
    Yvonne

  10. Hey Mig!
    Great post!

    A few follow-up points for you and your readers:

    a. You can get a taste of PRWeb.com’s top-of-the-line product, with our $200 FREE Press Release partnership through EmpowerWomenNow.com. click here for details.

    b. To add to your list of online press release distribution centers, we spent a great deal of time compiling the ultimate list here.

    c. I completely agree with you that a short, concise online press release by targeting your audience via keywords and phrases is critical to high referral traffic to your website/blog success. A sample of a $200 free press release is here, and you get your own Yahoo News Page as well.

    Stumbled, my dear!
    ~ Ponn

  11. Glad I found this! It all makes a lot of sense. You can see a list of titles somewhere and it’s the one that catches your attention that you want to read.
    Putting a bit of thought into an article title is so important. I’ve just had my 10th article accepted by ezinearticles and given platinum status etc. One of them entitled: Trying to Understand the “Psyche” of Beautiful Women…gets double or even 3 times more readers than the others. And I’m sure it’s because it’s a eye catching header etc. Thanks for your great info.
    Derek

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