What You Need to Know About Press Releases

Once upon a time, the phrase ‘press release’ sent me into instant panic mode. What the heck are those and how on earth do I write one?

If this is you, take a deep breath. It’s a lot easier than you’re probably thinking.

Since that mini panic attack years ago, I’ve actually become pretty great at writing these nifty little guys. And so will you. So go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back for the fantastic job you’re going to do writing one after reading this no-nonsense, how-to blog.

Without press releases you can’t have any sort of public relations within your business. That’s a substantial problem when it comes to people hearing about your business through media and news services with audiences much larger and possibly more engaged than yours.

Press releases are incredible branding and credibility tools, but they’re not primarily SEO tools. They’re a great way to get the word out about a company, product, or service, and to more effectively brand that company, product, or service. If a release is engaging enough, it can also generate social signals, conversation and sharing; direct targeted and organic traffic back to a website and create journalistic interest abroad.

This is in addition to that highly-desirable, shiny cherry-on-top: vast news and major media coverage.

According to PR Web, over 80 million people prefer to read their news online. Unsurprisingly, over 60% of journalists prefer to find their news sources and story ideas online, too.

This is good news and bad news for your business: the good news is that there’s a huge audience out there and the bad news is that you’re going to have to stand out to get noticed.

Know Your Audience

Get into your audience’s head. A good understanding of your brand, product or service and an hour of demographical research will go a long way toward achieving this goal.

For example, if your target market consists of the 45-and-over age group, using modern terms that don’t appeal to them won’t do much to help you gain traction. Remember who you are writing for and speak to them in their language.

Know Your Business

According to Business Know How, the best way to write a release with viral potential is to know the following information like the back of your hand: your brand, products, and services; an understanding of your market; research on what your competition is doing, and an awareness of the competitive edge you have to offer.

Formatting and Grammar

The quality of your writing matters because it can be the fine line between a press release that gets published and one that does not. This fabulous PR Daily article outlines six necessary AP style guide steps you ought to take when composing your release to assure that it’s newsworthy.

These include: stating your objective clearly, using the five Ws, minding your spacing, using proper grammar and style, and showing names and titles correctly and appropriately.

It’s also good form to use double spacing, with wide margins. This helps the journalist in making notes and helps present your news clearly.

If your release isn’t pretty much picture-perfect, it will go in the rejection pile with all of the other haphazardly composed (and quickly rejected) news releases that editors get bombarded with day after day. Editors at press release distribution services, newspapers, and online news websites are stringent.

They’re all fervent students of the English language, AP style, tone, and prose. They don’t see any wiggle room in grammar; they only see black and white.

Attention, Attention, Attention!

The most important element of a press release is its headline. A well-written, compelling headline will reach out of a pile of press releases and scream, “Pick me, pick me!” Not a bad thing for a journalist to see on any given day.

Don’t worry about whether or not the title will look good in print because most journalists/editors will change the title anyway if the release is to be used. The job of the title/headline is simply to seize attention and encourage the journalist to read more.

Don’t Mess Around

Get to the point. No reader wants to be serenaded with a huge backstory on your product, services, or company launch. Address your main points in the first few sentences. Everything following should support those statements. Your reader will be wondering these two things while reading your press release:

•  What value are you bringing to the world?

•  Why should I be involved?

Hold Your Horses (Keep Your Release to One Page)

It’s natural that you feel compelled to share all the facts and details in your release. The sad truth is that most audiences don’t have the attention span to read long releases, and neither does the impatient, overwhelmed journalist who gets to decide between publishing your piece and a hundred others.

Avoid lengthy explanation and keep the copy as tight as possible. If your release is running three pages long, you’re writing an article, not a press release!

The test of success is whether the story can be understood in its entirety if only the first paragraph was reproduced in print. The second paragraph expands on the information given in the first, but with slightly more detail.  Often, the third paragraph provides a quote. The fourth and final paragraph outlines final information, such as referencing websites and ordering, or mentions other products in development, for example.

End It Like a Pro

End the press release with the word “Ends” in bold. After “Ends”, write “For further information, please contact” and list your details or those of an appointed person. Give a mobile number so that journalists can make contact out of office hours. Be as accessible as possible.

If further points of information are needed, you can place them in “Notes to editors” under the contact information. Examples might include background information on the company (called a boilerplate), or a note saying that photos are available upon request. It’s helpful to number these points to make the presentation of your release as clean as possible. 

Secret Tip #1: Learn How to Target

All releases are targeted when you set them up to go out for distribution. Proper targeting can often mean the difference between thousands of reads and plenty of traffic streaming back to your money website or the lack thereof. Be sure you research every single industry your company, products, or services apply to before you set your industry targets pre-distribution.

Secret Tip #2: Indicate Timing of Release

Indicate at the top of the release whether it is for immediate release or under embargo and if so, give the correct date. However, you should try to give an immediate release, because it can be frustrating for journalists to receive information under embargo that cannot be published right away.

Distribution Services

E Releases

Ereleases is a great choice for businesses or brands who seek to get their press release in the hands of actual journalists. It’s the oldest press-release newswire service with real editors who do a fantastic job.

 PR Web  

If you’re after massive online exposure, this press release option is a giant among competitive services. PR Web has the largest website distribution (30,000 + bloggers and journalists), and your press release will appear on dozens of websites and likely be viewed thousands of times.

PR Underground

The most affordable option on this list (and what we at 10twelve use) PR Underground will give you the best bang for your buck, with high levels of satisfaction, guaranteed pickups and several plans to choose from.

Contact us to find out more about our press releases and the options that we use when developing content for our press release.