Today, it’s easy for marketers to write off the press release.
Some look at them as an antiquated holdout from times past, and the press release falls by the wayside for flashier forms of content, like social media, blogs, and infographics.
Press releases are exactly as critical as it’s always been: those who don’t think they are, simply don’t know how to use them, or how to write press releases that will win.
To learn more about how you can dominate the power of the press release today for your brand, read on.
Do Press Releases Really Still Matter?
I sat down this week with a PR expert, Shannon Gray, Managing Director of McKinney & Associates, a 25-year-old PR firm that specializes in social justice. McKinney & Associates even runs a Twitter Chat, #socialjusticechat at 2 PM Wednesdays. Shannon was a recent guest host in our Twitter chat.
Here’s what Shannon had to say about why PRs still matter:
Press releases are still vital to the communications industry.
Press releases are the standard and recognized format for sharing details about an event, person or topic.
Well-written press releases can answer who, what, where, when, why and how in a concise and easily digestible manner.
Press releases cut through the clutter of extraneous words of blog posts.
A press release can be mailed, emailed, faxed and posted online.
Until the last journalism major dies, press releases are the gold standard for getting information to media outlets.
Share-worthy shortened version of Shannon’s full quote:
Shannon said it perfectly!
TL;DR: Press releases still work today, perhaps more than ever: worthwhile ones (well-written) can cut through the noise.
Unlike lighter forms of content like social media posts and blog articles, press releases are solely meant for publicity and going viral.
When you look at it like this, it’s shocking they’re so under-utilized.
While the primary purpose of a press release is to spread the news about a happening or development, very few marketers use them, believing, instead, that other forms of content will be more useful for spreading brand awareness.
Riddle me that.
While companies have been using press releases for more than 100 years, they’ve not changed hugely over that time. While the mission is a bit different (today’s press releases are less specifically news-focused and more informational in nature), the effect is still the same: news outlets find press releases and they write about them, furthering a brand’s message and creating a dynamic environment that’s productive for quality engagement.
Because of this, companies that have yet to abandon the press release are very wise.
There’s a lot to be gained there, but it takes some skill to do it well in today’s environment.
10 Best Practices: How To Write Press Releases That Win
Today, it’s not the company that writes the most press releases that wins the race, but the one who writes the highest-quality press release.
With that in mind, here are the ten best practices for how to write press releases that are truly attention-grabbing, rise above the noise, and represent your brand at a high level in today’s jam-packed online stratosphere.
1. Fill them with newsworthy content
FYI: A “sensationally” written PR (non-serious, just for hype and reaction) isn’t worth your time.
According to PRWeb, newsworthy content is the #1 thing that most press releases are lacking.
At Express Writers, when our clients order premium writing and distribution – the #1 issue we have is that clients try to get “sensationalism” through. We tell them no, every time.
You see, it’s the content that differentiates a press release from other materials, so it’s critical to get it right. The most popular content of press releases includes a new product or service release or events like business expansions and awards.
To ensure that you’re communicating your message clearly to your readers, install it firmly in the headline and avoid the temptation to use your press release as an advertising platform – it’s not.
Instead, keep your press releases focused specifically with newsworthy content and you’ll go far. In addition to informing readers, you’ll also succeed in engaging them and creating an environment in which your press releases are some of the most informative content out there.
2. Keep it objective
Objectivity is essential in press releases. Again, this is not a promotional platform – nor should I be treated like one.
For the best reception to your press release, keep it free of hyperbole and language that directly addresses your audience.
Instead, keep it objective and encyclopedic. In addition to coming off as more professional, this tone also helps get your message across without blurring it with sensational claims or sloppy construction.
3. Ensure all included information is relevant
Imagine this: a journalist finds your press release and wants to do a story about you. The story will reach a huge audience and has the potential to expand your following hugely, but the contact information you included in the press release is wrong, and the journalist can’t figure out how to reach you.
If you wind up in this situation, you’re essentially throwing money down the drain. While it’s critical to include your contact information, it’s also essential to ensure that it’s current and up to date. A valid email or phone number is best.
4. Abide by length best practices
For best results for length when it comes to how to write press releases, it’s good to keep your press release between 300-800 words. This length is designed to offer your customers ample information without becoming so verbose as to be difficult to read.
Longer than this becomes difficult to pay attention to while shorter risks missing important points or pieces of information.
What’s more, be sure to format your press release much like you would any other piece of content – breaking up large portions of text into smaller chunks and ensuring that everything is free of spelling and grammar errors and mistakes.
5. Proofread everything
While press releases can quickly go viral, this will be a nightmare situation if yours is riddled with embarrassing spelling and grammar mistakes.
With this in mind, be sure that you proofread your entire press release before it goes to press. In addition to keeping you from reaching internet infamy through a preventable mistake, this will also help you present a more polished and professional face for your company.
6. Include your business’s name as the news source
To give people context and contribute to making it clear where your press release came from, be sure to include your business name as a news source in the headline of the media release. In addition to tying your name closely to the topic of the press release, this also helps streamline the announcement and make it more attention-grabbing for readers.
7. Quality over quantity, always
As goes with all forms of web content today, quality rules. While companies used to pump out press releases as fast as they could, today’s best practices dictate a much more careful approach. Instead of being hasty about your press releases, today’s best practices dictate that you take the time needed to make them as high-quality as possible. In addition to providing a better impression of you, your company, and your newsworthy event, a quality press release can also act as a marketing tool – showcasing your company’s high-level skills and commitment to value – even in the form of a press release.
8. Use reputable distribution sites
So you’ve written a beautiful, high-quality press release. Now what? Unless you’re using legitimate distribution sites, it’s likely that your press release will just die in its tracks.
Prevent this from happening by understanding which sites are reputable and which aren’t. While this is partially about maintaining a high standard of quality for your company, it’s also about adhering to best SEO practices as they relate to press releases.
You see – Google’s Panda update had a major effect on many press release sites. The reason for this was that, at the time, many press release sites were totally free. Because there was so little expense involved in creating a press release, and none in distributing it, many companies began to treat press releases as a black-hat tactic – filling their press releases with spammy backlinks and plenty of promotional content – and then distributing them on free press release sites. Google caught wind, and the press release sites were taken down, hard.
With this in mind, avoid making the same mistakes as your predecessors by choosing to distribute your content on only the most reputable press release sites. In addition to improving the SEO value of your press release, this is just a good practice that can help make your content more professional all around.
Wondering what a “reputable press release site” is?
PRWeb is at the top, holding the highest-rated distribution service online. With over 30,000 bloggers and 250,000 real news subscribers in their network, they hold serious klout for high-quality distribution.
9. Be careful about your links
Because the history of link building in press releases is spotty, it pays to be careful about how many you include, and where.
According to Sara Callahan, the owner of Carter West Public Relations, it’s wise only to include about 2-3 links for every 500 words in the press release.
Keep in mind that Google doesn’t pay a huge amount of attention to links in press releases and that including more won’t afford you more link juice. With this in mind, only include links where they will be legitimately useful for your readers and avoid stuffing them elsewhere.
10. Format your press releases according to best practices
Just like all other forms of web content, press releases must be formatted correctly. For best results, keep your headlines short (fewer than 22 characters) and ensure that you include at least two relevant keywords (preferably three) throughout the first paragraph, subhead, and headline.
Keep your press releases under 800 words and be sure to include your company logo somewhere in the document. Check out how we’ve done it in our recent press release on PRWeb.
If you can muster it, you should also consider including a short video for people who want a bit more to interact with.
TL;DR #2: STOP! You Need a Journalist, STAT
Now that you know all about the best practices for great press releases, let’s talk about who should write them.
Not everyone can pump out a press release and have it be any good. Instead, it’s essential to hire a journalist to write your press releases for you.
In addition to creating higher-quality content, a journalist will also be able to catch and amplify the minutia of a good press release.
Journalists know which wording will be most effective, how best to grab audience attention, and what’s required for good distribution, and how best to produce high levels of audience engagement. When it comes to writing press releases, the help of a good journalist is critical, and it will serve you well in the long run of your press releases as a whole.
Because a journalist has a good understanding of what a press release is and how they work, it’s a journalist who will be most qualified to write a great press release for your company.
How to Write a Press Release 101: PR In Action
When I launched my book, So You Think You Can Write?, we put out this press release to go along with it on PRWeb:
In addition to being informative, the press release has a few key pieces that are meant to grab the reader’s attention.
Video: It all starts off with the video, in which I tell viewers a bit about what the book covers and why I wrote it. While the video is informative, we also worked hard to keep it light (you’ll enjoy the last few seconds, trust me.)
Body: The actual body of the press release is dedicated to informative content, direct quote, and details about why the book release is important. The copy isn’t studded with links and only includes a few that are relevant to the book – a link to buy it on Amazon, for example.
Bio: At the end of the press release, there’s a small section that tells readers about who Express Writers is and what we do. Our company name is also present in the header of the press releases, and there’s a link to our content shop at the footer.
It’s simple – right? Right, but it’s also effective.
In Defense of Press Releases
A great press release can go a long way, and this simple guide can help you learn how to write press releases that are effective.
Regardless of whether you’re announcing a new service or celebrating an award your company worked hard for, press releases are an ideal way to build notoriety and buzz around your online material.
Just remember, for best results don’t write them yourself: invest in a trained journalist.
Our team has trained journalists to write premium press releases. Check out our press release services today!