Press Release Primer
Press releases have the potential to create incredible exposure.Looking beyond the linking benefits, a well written press release may land you in newspapers, TV, and radio. I write quick content daily for websites. When a good subject doesn’t come to mind, I turn to a news search engine for inspiration. Quite often the top results are press releases or news articles feeding from those press releases. Some of these releases inspire me; others are empty promotion with nothing of interest to me or my site visitors. Here are some tips on the making of a great press release.
Know your reader.
Balance between writing for the target audience (newspaper reader, radio listener, web surfer) and writing for an editor, reporter or journalist who may take up your subject or even reprint the story. Hooking both the media and the end consumer will result in a snowball of PR. Remember, a journalist scanning a PR source will make decisions based on the first few words of each article. Pack the opening with the hot topic points.
A strong headline and intro is critical. It absolutely must capture the eye of someone skimming press releases and inspire further reading. Hit them with the news first. You can explain how and where it comes from later.
Keep it brief, accurate and readable. The media isn’t looking for full blown articles to copy, but may have use of some filler content or extra information within a report, column or website. Don’t exaggerate. If your PR is a success you will be getting phone calls and emails asking questions. It is possible to build or destroy credibility based on your accuracy. You may become a source for different reporters as you build on your record of knowledge and accuracy. If you use outside stats and facts, include the source. The press release should create confidence.
Grammar and spelling should be checked and rechecked. Read it; edit and re-read; print it out; read again; email to friends for corrections; give yourself many chances to catch mistakes. Then don’t rush to publish. Reading something again after a nights sleep is always an eye opener for me. Something about my focus during the writing process tunes out errors that jump off the page the next day. This is why an extra set of eyes, or waiting till your eyes are taking a fresh look can make a big difference in the writing quality. Printing a copy to read also helps you see it differently.
Attach images if the PR publisher allows it. If you have image rights or public domain images to publish then this is one more way to make your content usable by others. Permission regarding quotes is important as well within a press release since the exposure can be significant.
Anatomy of a Typical Press Release
Headlines should have a hook. Make people wonder where they stand or curious about an outcome. For example, Are you a lunatic? Research may surprise you!
Some PR publishers allow a summary after the Headline. This is a second chance to grab attention. Make it strong and to the point.
Date Instructions – capitals are often used
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR RELEASE BEFORE __/__/__
FOR RELEASE AFTER __/__/__
Make it as easy as possible to be contacted. You don’t want to even appear to be hiding. Reporters may work odd hours, so use a phone number you can answer day and night.
Resist the temptation to tell it all.
Hit the high points in a few paragraphs under 350 words.
Make the reader want to visit your site or call your company for more details.
Pack the best parts in the beginning, inverted pyramid style. This makes for it easy if an editor needs to shorten it.
If you feel the need to include a couple sentences about the company, this is a good place to tag it on. In business since___, a member of____, awards include___ or a brief company mission statement will work here as extra information.
End of Press Release
### is often used to signal the end of the press release. Anything after the ### is not published.
Don’t kid yourself. You either have a great story or you don’t. Generic name spreading press releases are a waste of a reporters time. Don’t write something that reads like an advertisement. And don’t keep re-submitting the same press release. Surely something interesting happens with your company every month? If you don’t have a great story ready to tell the editors and journalists, then wait for one or develop a story.
Do all this well and you may be talking live on a local radio show, or answering the questions of a national journalist. The power of a great press release, when capitalized on, can rocket an enterprise to success.
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