Think the press release is dead in the age of social media?
No way. A powerful press release can tell a story, report news, or help a cause. Smart online writers know that a great press release can take your message to new channels and reach thousands or even millions of new readers. And a terrific press release has great SEO benefits as well.
Writing a press release takes time, research and some skill. And writing a killer press release, which catapults visibility of the message and drives results, requires adding a few more ingredients to the mix.
To get the results you want, follow these six steps:
1. Craft a hook
If you’ve ever had a song stuck in your head, you know what a great hook is. It’s that chorus or beat that you just can’t shake.
Just like in pop music, a great hook is key to success in writing a killer press release.
To find your hook, spend time before you start writing your release researching the press releases and blog posts of industry competitors, gathering information about which releases and posts have received significant coverage. Use these successes as a guideline for your own release, with an eye toward what types of content your audience is reacting to and/or sharing.
Great hooks pull us into a remarkable story. They engage our curiosity and make us crazy to find out more.
Remember the primary audience for a press release — a journalist. Reduce the basics of your message down to one sentence that answers the 5W’s of reporting – who, what, when, where and why — and find that story hook that will help them write a story their readers won’t forget.
2. Add a great headline
If you’re a Copyblogger reader, you already know the importance of a compelling headline.
You only have a few seconds to grab a reader’s attention, so be sure to craft a headline with the following elements:
- Lead with a concept, not your brand name — your audience (both readers and reporters) probably don’t care about your brand or company name, but they do care about finding a good story. Lead with a compelling concept to draw them in
- Be creative — don’t confine yourself to the headlines you see in other press releases. Use all your Copyblogger-inspired skills to create a headline that stands out.
- Test — test your headlines just like you would any other content. Find the headline that grabs attention and makes the reader want to learn more. You can repurpose a headline that’s worked particularly well for you in blog content or a special report, for example.
3. Avoid jargon
When writing killer press releases remember to minimize technical or industry jargon. Although relevant for certain professionals or groups, jargon may confuse your audience and turn them off to your message.
To engage new readers who may not be as skilled in industry language, write for a broader audience and increase the likelihood the content is shared. Keep it simple, and don’t be afraid to offer explanatory resources if some industry or brand-specific names or words are needed.
4. Provide resources
We don’t live in a one-dimensional world, and your press release shouldn’t look one-dimensional either. Provide added value to your killer press release by including photos, videos, links to source material and any other in-depth resources, giving your readers the assets they need to fully report the news you’re providing them.
A complete “package” of supporting resources makes your story that much more appealing to a reporter looking for something great to cover.
Remember, we live in a digital world, so be sure these resources are web-ready and in the correct formats for web publication. The easiest way to do this is to use accessible cloud-based services like YouTube, Flickr and others that allow visitors to download content.
The easier you make it for a reporter or editor to publish your story, the more likely they are to pick up on your message.
Errors in grammar and spelling can kill your credibility and take away from your overall message.
Write your release in word processing document instead of a text file or online submission form. When you’ve got it drafted, print it out and proofread your writing. Correct and rewrite, then proofread again.
Investing additional time before submission is what separates a professional press release from a clumsy, amateurish effort.
6. Share your news
A good news release distribution service will syndicate your news on relevant publisher sites, and it will also attract readers through search (be sure to be strategic about keywords, as with any other kind of content marketing).
And if you’ve done the legwork to build relationships with influencers in your space, don’t shy from sharing your news release by emailing a link or posting a link to your social media outposts.
Keep your audience in mind when creating your message and stick to these 6 tips to help craft your press release. When you put the thought and time into creating a truly killer press release, you’ll find it can drive traffic to your business and help promote your message.
Reader Comments (78)
Elliott Fienberg says
I think this article could’ve been improved by showing examples of good press releases that speak to these points, instead of just providing more internal links.
Brian Clark says
Elliott, thanks for the suggestion. Maybe Jiyan can do that in a follow-up post.
Agreed that this would be a great follow-up post.
Devin Day says
Elliott, excellent suggestion. A how-to article often become so much clearer when you have an example of what the end result should look like.
Randy, also has an excellent suggestion on getting reporting types to publish the article. I spend $1000 bucks last year putting an press release together and not much to show for it, but a lighter wallet.
That would be very helpful indeed – I can write a release, but darned if I can get anyone to care!
Jef Menguin says
I totally agree Elliot. I was looking for examples so that I can make sense of how to do all these tips.
Randy Kemp says
Thanks for the great tips.
This is the first time I recall Copyblogger doing a post on press releases. However, there could have been entries, before I started reading.
Now we need a follow-up sometime, on getting busy reporting types to read and publish it.
I am glad Copyblogger is doing a post on press releases. It is a great way to draw attention to a blog or a new info product; writers could do well to learn how to write killer press releases. I can’t wait for the follow up.
Bash Bosh says
Jiyal, thank you for these excellent tips.
A very good article regarding press releases. Now, all I need is to sit and read all these linked articles!
I absolutely agree with you that writing a press release takes time, research and some skill. But I think anyone can success with some patience and a good strategy.
Alexis Grant says
Great tips! I wrote a similar post recently… It’s aimed at authors, but applies to everyone: http://alexisgrant.com/2011/01/17/authors-how-to-write-a-press-release-for-your-book/
Keep those tips coming!
Derryck Strachan says
Another couple of important points. Firstly: know your audience. It’s really important to tailor the press release for the publication you are targeting, changing the angle of the story to be more relevant to the target publication and to reflect the kind of coverage you want to receive. You don’t want to write the story for them but if you know a particular journalist’s proclivities you might want to slant things a certain way.
Second: make sure you’ve actually got a story. if you’re aiming for real media coverage (as opposed to press releases for SEO fodder) you need to be saying something newsworthy and relevant to the publication you are targeting. Just because it seems important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to a journalist. That may just mean adjusting your scope rather than self-censoring. For example, your local newspaper might be interested in covering your sponsorship of the school egg and spoon race whereas your fascinating technological innovation in digitally controlled deep fat frying may be better suited to a trade publication.
This may be old-school (I’ve been writing press releases since the 90s…) but I was always taught to write press releases top-down, inverted triangle style. As in, put your most important information up front and get into more details down lower, so a news outlet could cut off your release at any point and still get the main story across.
I would assume this still makes sense today with keywords, SEO, etc. – the higher up keywords are, the more effective your release will be.
We’ve had great success with paid press release services getting our release all over the place, creating permanent links & even getting picked up by Twitter. Getting good stories in respected news outlets though, usually still takes good, old-fashioned picking up the phone & pitching.
I agree with everything you just said Erika. Additionally, our research indicates that the top-down, inverted triangle style is an effective approach from a search perspective.
Online Writing says
Just the tips I needed in writing a press release. Jiyan, is there a great difference between writing an online PR and PR for print media? Thank you.
I think there are some notable differences. For one, the online PR will accommodate different types of media (i.e imagery, videos, etc.) and so it’s generally a good idea to think of the online PR more holistically. The other fundamental difference is that the PR you are constructing for print media should probably be more tailored to the target than an online PR, that should have more of a broad appeal. In fact, one way to think about the difference is that with online PR, you are really talking about one entity while with the PR for print media, it’s probably better to think about multiple, tailored variations of the same pitch.
Online Writing says
Thank you for your response. I definitely agree with your explanation. Being new in the online writing field, it helps to write with the ‘holistic’ thing in mind and how your online PR would appeal to a wider/broader target. I think one great challenge for online PR is how to make your write up as timely as possible. The speed with which events unfold and how updates cope with, writing a PR must consider this factor so that your freshest and latest PR will not go stale in a matter of minutes. Great views Jiyan!
As a rule, we usually write one main press release to put online, then do tailored e-mail and phone pitches to relevant journalists/reporters, highlighting how the release is relevant to them/their readers.
For example, we just did a press release for an education non-profit about an up-and-coming principal training program. We put one release on the “wire” using a press release news service, and had a whole list of education writers, philanthropy writers and business writers that we targeted one-on-one. In the individual outreach, we tailored a short “pitch” to the writer — to education, how the movement fit into the education movement, to business, how the program had a business element, and to philanthropy, a profile of the program’s founder. We included the same press release to ALL as backup, but tailored the story angle in the up-front pitch.
Online Writing says
I am grateful for your great idea Erica. I believe that PR, whether online or in print, should not be a hit and miss thing but hitting purposively the target. In all of these, I think crafting a hook would be a big step in writing a killer PR. This is one PR craft that I need to really work on. However, whenever I dwell on the “hook”, I can’t help thinking about the “bait”, which maybe a great headline will do the “baiting” trick. Now, back to writing my killer PR…I’m writing the closing paragraph and I can’t help interjecting a comment here. Thanks and best regards everyone!
Jim Schakenbach, BIGWORDS Content Development says
A major point that is perhaps lost here is that a good press release is not necessarily about what a journalist wants — it’s about what his or her AUDIENCE wants. More than just being “interesting” to the reader, a good release provides value — it addresses a reader’s “pain.” For example, Derryck mentioned trade publications (an excellent idea), so a good headline for his deep fat fryer in a related trade pub is not “Introducing the World’s Greatest Fryer”, it would be something like “New Fryer Technology Eliminates Burning.” A journalist would be more interested in that because it provides value to his or her reader, so it’s valuable to the reporter or editor.
Hashim Warren says
When I was a music journalist, I had a love/hate relationship with press releases.
I loved the press release because it made it easier to crank out the daily stream of news I was required to publish. Because of the standard format of the press release, I was able to scan it quickly and get what I needed for my story.
I hated the press release because it is abused by many people. It’s not uncommon for a PR person to spam you a release you never asked for, and for a release to be filled with exaggerations and outright lies.
My biggest tip for people sending releases? “Craft a hook”, like Jiyan says. The hooks that got my attention were related to big news stories that were currently making the rounds.
For instance, the President’s State of the Union was last night. Today would be a great day for a startup to issue a release related to one of the points or promises that Obama outlined in his speech. As a journalist, that’s the type of angle I could pounce on.
What a great point – the timely hook is not only important from the perspective of someone looking for content to write-about, but also bear in mind that a timely hook is also going to be more likely to tap into the surge of users going into search to consume more information about a timely topic.
Shane Arthur says
Jiyan: Thanks for the press release information.
Ever hear of Bill Stoller? He’s more of the yellow highlighter crowd in my opinion, but if you can stomach that style, he has some great information on the matter: http://www.publicityinsider.com/release.asp
(He’s a fan of using subheads with headlines)
Frank Strong says
Yeah, Bill’s a great guy (@publicityguru). He’s definitely on the publicity side of things, but he always makes great points that are especially relevant and practical for small businesses. Also, when he Tweets something, many, many people RT. I’ve never seen anything like it before and told him as much.
John Zajaros says
When Eddie Murphy made his entry into show business he started with a very funny album. Remember albums? Cave men used them for frizsees! Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach were among the first cave men and women to use them.
Well, Eddie did a very funny skit about hooks and eye-catchers! I can hear it in my head as I type this comment. The hook his characters came up with, one of the all-time best?
“What a bargain!”
Now that’s a hook!
Thanks, great article. Great memories!
Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.
The Ultimate Internet Image (an eye-catching hook is ever there was one, eh?)
John Zajaros says
Next, write an article covering the benefits of proofreading!
As an internet marketer and writing professional, it’s crucial to measure the real benefits of using press releases when compared to other documents and methods. It’s great to see someone that has a vested interest in press releases write an article about how to make them more ponderous than they already are.
But how valuable is this information to getting results?
In my estimation, not much.
I live in the real world and seek maximum returns for my efforts – I don’t have the time to spend on documents for which I have metrics that indicate a far lower marketing value today.
This is particularly true when using these online. After interviewing several people with press release authority sites, the results are clear to me.
They are inundated with thousands of these documents daily and few, if any, are given real consideration or used.
If I were to take the amount of time to do all of the dressing up and apply the additional components recommended, there would be little time for worthwhile marketing and generating effective publicity.
Add photos, videos, etc?
Not in my lifetime. I have more tools and tactics that yield far better results. As a businessman,first, it is mission-critical for me to get the most bang-for-my-buck.
One last point …
It always irritates me when someone stands on their soapbox and tells me not to use industry jargon and technical terms – And professes several other inconsequential points and “fluffy” suggestions.
This is the sort of advice that is being given by someone simply being anal about a simple writing process.
With these documents, you write and do whatever it takes to appeal to the audience and there are no absolutes. You also do what it takes to appeal to the person that is deciding what to do with your submission.
This is a calculated balancing act and the two objectives are rarely the same. This is where the skill of the writer may be at it’s most crucial.
In assessing whether to use press releases or do anything else to promote a business, idea or concept, results are my overwhelming consideration.
Soft commentaries like: “gee, this might improve” the results of a wantonly ineffective marketing tool – have zero practical value to me.
Brian Clark says
Jake, I hear you on your points. But one has to wonder, what value did you receive from leaving this lengthy anonymous comment? Surely a smart businessman like yourself could have gotten better ROI doing something else?
Emily Foshee says
Thank you for a very informative article. Another great way to make sure your press release has impact is to respond to a current news event. This isn’t always possible, of course. But here’s a hypothetical example: pretend that a new line of electric cars is being launched. Your company makes a part of the engine that enables the car to be powered solely by electricity. You could send a press release a day before the new car line is announced detailing the part your company had in building this new motor. This makes your release current, impactful, and of interest.
It didn’t take very long and we all often need to multi-task anyway. It breaks the boredom and makes the day go faster.
I also don’t consider 7-10 actual minutes a waste of time. This is a subject that is confusing to many and am sure there are many readers with a desire to maximize their efforts and returns.
After 26 years of successful online and offline business success, it’s nice to be able to pass along a few words about what works and what doesn’t in the real world.
Like many, I am a perpetual student too. I don’t know it all and appreciate it when others contribute with what may be an unpopular position or comments.
As far as being anonymous, my name is Jake Louis. You have my email address and I wasn’t aware that my comments were being weighed with any consideration given to being posted by “anonymous” or “known” individuals.
If you would like my telephone number and address, I would be glad to send you that info also.
Shoot me an email.
I can assure you that I am quite alive and very real.
Brian Clark says
I was just curious. You seem like a very bottom line guy, so I just wondered about the time to comment (which a lot of people with similar mentalities won’t do). No worries. 🙂
I understand Brian.
It’s a bit disheartening that top-performing writers and businesspeople don’t contribute more often. I stay busy, but I don’t mind popping in occasionally.
Perhaps there’s a bit of a misunderstanding in interpreting my earlier post too. I buck established concepts and ideas – not because I arbitrarily disagree. It’s a requirement for any professional to question, adjust and replace tactics and strategies while opting for better alternatives.
Am I bottom-line and results-driven?
Everyone reading this with a mindset to do business in a writing endeavor in any venue should be too. If they aren’t – why not?
So, allow me to amplify my earlier remarks …
The first considerations that come to mind when reviewing any presentation are:
How can this make what I do better? – or – How can this make me better or more productive? – or – How can applying this method make me more money?
So, it follows that whatever I am reviewing needs to impact a current concept, philosophy or strategy, right?
The operative word is: current.
This is the fundamental problem with press releases – now.
If you are giving me a long dissertation about the advantages of hunting a Tyrannosaurus Rex with a howitzer instead of a bow and arrow, I’m going to ask – Huh? Why?
It’s irrelevant. T-Rex was gone from the planet millions of years ago. Who cares?!
I might want to know out of curiosity, but I sure don’t care about it as a practical matter.
The same metaphor can be applied to my feelings about press releases.
Do I think press releases have no value? Have they become extinct?
I won’t say that they have no value to anyone. Extinct? As a practical marketing tool, they are well on their way and fading fast. Not gone yet – but close.
Still, I won’t dismiss anything that may be of value to someone.
In my estimation, there far more effective tools that take the same or less time and work better. This is what I look at with a super-critical mindset. As a profit-driven professional, this is my livelihood and I have to hold myself accountable when I make poor choices.
Sure, I write professionally, but I treat it as a business – first, last and always. This one sliver of paradigm may be the single most important difference between six-figure writing pros and writers that struggle to pay the bills.
If I can get more bang-for-the-buck with a different tool, strategy or method – I’m going to use it. The decision to use an alternative isn’t emotional – in fact, it can rarely be driven by emotion and still be profitable.
It must be a decision based on a pragmatic assessment.
So – again, why would I want to digest more information about a process I’ve already proven to myself is not nearly as effective as others?
For the same or less – time and money?
I won’t allocate time or money to it – it would be fruitless for me to expend either this way.
And I’m not saying any of this without being able to back it up with hard results that validate the statement. I won’t commit reputation-suicide. You can bet I have tested the validity of my statements over – and over again.
The need for information about this topic is apparently urgent. When I read that someone had spent $1000 on a press release and had nothing to show for it in this thread – I nearly choked on my lunch.
There isn’t a good enough reason for anyone to take a hit for a grand and have nothing to show for it. You aren’t only out-of-pocket for the grand – you still have your time to consider.
You also have to determine the difference between your out-of-pocket costs and what the service or product should have been sold to the client for – which is also unfortunate.
However, the money is still recoverable – the time is finite. There is no way to get it back.
The net loss is far more than the cash.
Dave Grimes II says
I would love to see a follow-up post focusing entirely on the final point: Getting your release out there. I’d be interested in reading some strategies for getting your release to the right sets of eyes.
Vaclav Gregor says
Great post. And you are right, not only that we readers can learn what you write about, but we can actually see YOU using these technique in YOUR articles. I think this is a big one!
For me the only problem is language. Why? Because I’m not a native and that makes it little bit harder.
You are appearing at an advantageous time if you want to become a professional writer.
With literacy and reading comprehension at all-time lows – and continuing to fall – the barriers to entry are as small as you may ever see them.
Do not let being a non-native English speaker/writer dissuade you. I know several highly capable writing pros that are of European descent. (I am assuming you are European. Please correct me I am in error.)
The most important thing you can do now is to study the way different pieces are structured and written. Model and emulate, but don’t copy them. Ironically the base English language isn’t the most difficult part.
It is the subtleties in the language that trip everyone up. As I am sure you know, English is comprised of many different languages and roots.
The devil is in the details. It’s the little stuff that trips even native English speakers up.
Hope things go well for you.
Vaclav Gregor says
Yeas I’m from Europe (Czech Republic). I’m 18 years old, so this will take some time to master. You are right about modeling others. That helps a lot. I’m trying to model other skillful writers for a bout a year. If you told me a year ago that I would be able to write articles in english I would probably burst into laughter. So I guess if I keep working on myself, the results will improve sooner or later.
Anyway thanks for the support.
Selena Blake says
Copyblogger, sometimes you’re just spooky. Just this morning I put on my to do list: research press releases.
Like Dave, I’d like more info on getting the press releases out there. Are those press releases services useful? Worth the money? I suppose that goes past writing into business/marketing.
Thanks for the helpful article (and all the others!)
El Eclar says
I will wait for your follow post to see some samples! Good luck, and thanks for the tips! 🙂
What are some do-it-yourself resources for submitting a press release? I don’t have a large budget, but would love to get the word out for my niche. Thanks
Oli Gardner says
Decent post, and right on the money desire wise for what many people want to learn – but I don’t think you’re sharing enough actual implementation details here.
“spend time before you start writing your release researching the press releases and blog posts of industry competitors, gathering information about which releases and posts have received significant coverage”
How? What’s a good technique to gauge the relative significance of previous posts?
Also: Test your headline
How? What would you recommend as a way to test your headline within the realm of a press release? If you’re giving up your content to a PR site you don’t have control to do an A/B test.
Would love some more detailed insight.
We wanted to keep the general article a bit more top-level but here are some more granular points I would make:
I would say the most effective method for measuring the traction of a given piece of content would be the shares and retweets it has garnered. If the retweent count isn’t available, a quick query in search.twitter.com should be a good indicator of whether the content has received traction or not.
Another tactic to consider would involve prospecting on some of the community-powered news sites (i.e. Digg). These sometimes provide good information on what types of content can perform online.
The point about testing a headline was intended to be in regards to an ongoing process. If you’re sending out one release every two weeks or so, my point was simply that you should experiment with a variety of headlines to see what performs better from a search perspective. As an example, one of our clients, Sharperoo.com (a directory of contractors) was optimizing their headline for terms like “general contractor” and “los angeles” and not gaining much traction. Once they started adding an additional identifier into the title like “top” or “best,” they suddenly started gaining much more traction. It’s not that there were more queries being run for the more refined term, it was simply that they were able to get above the fold with their content for the more specific term. Run a query for +top +contractors +los angeles to see what I’m talking about.
Oli Gardner says
Yeah, I figured the headline testing would be more of a experimentation over time thing rather than simultaneous – was just curious as it would be a great thing to be able to test multiple headlines at the same time.
Thanks for the response.
Jake Louis says
I’ve already chimed in enough about my thoughts – and the realities – regarding the practicality and profitability of writing press releases as a primary product and revenue source.
You raise the same valid points many are probably thinking.
How do you place a success barometer on comparable documents? Which documents do you choose and why? What are the metrics?
Specifically – not – generally?
I’m not going to inject any more opinion other than, if I spent the amount of time suggested by the “expert,” this would be an hugely unprofitable product and service to offer.
That’s how I measure everything – and how I recommend others do it also.
It’s great to be a creative genius, but I measure everything in terms of profit and loss.
It’s got to be that way – I love to write, but earning real money doing it is the chief objective.
For this reason, the expenditure of time trumps every other consideration for the products I write for clients.
So, here is a resource you may find valuable:
This site offers a free guide (and a few surprises) that has solid examples writing press releases. There are 75 of them. There is a decent newsletter here also and you may find other things of value.
For any people that have alarms going off now – I have no affiliate or other financial ties to any sites I recommend. When I say free – I mean – free.
Secondly, the question always comes up regarding headline effectiveness. There are very good reasons for it to occur too.
A terrific headline can save an average piece. Nothing can save writing with a bad headline – except blind, dumb luck. I obviously don’t count on luck in my business.
It truly doesn’t matter how great the writing is – if the headline doesn’t hook the reader – immediately – they won’t read the masterpiece you’ve written.
This is one of the few cardinal rules of writing for any kind of assignment. Several components of the headline are critical. You make a valid point about split testing. How?
There is no pat answer for this and, like you, I question the viability of doing it with press releases. So, if it was me, I would seek to put as good a mainstream document out there as I could.
I would write to achieve effectiveness, clarity and brevity. I would not place much emphasis on all of the flowery add-ons mentioned here or wade through hundreds of documents to see if I was doing things right.
Candidly, there is far too much of a premium on perfection and it is rarely warranted. Attempting to achieve perfection causes a serious loss of speed and – worse – hesitation.
Speed achieves objectives and conquers markets on the Internet – Perfection rarely does.
I would place the emphasis on creating a technically sound piece – with a monster headline.
My distribution strategy would be to get my quality document in as many hands as possible. The last time I researched press release submissions, there were over 160 primary and secondary disseminators for these documents.
I know that doing a broadside with numbers isn’t exactly a sexy approach and it also isn’t a “wow” thing to do – but it is brutally effective when done right. Playing a numbers game has been a successful formula for success on the web for a very long time.
Only, this is a numbers game you play with a quality piece – this tilts the game in your favor.
Below is a link to a site that test the EMV (Emotional Marketing Value) of any headline. It has been around for a long time. I won’t explain it here and you can make up your own mind about the value.
Is this the ultimate tool for measuring headline effectiveness?
No, of course not. There will never be a substitute for the mind of a crafty, skilled writer.
However, this free tool can help many and is sponsored by the American Marketing Institute.
The newsletter isn’t bad either.
Donny Gamble says
I think the headline is the most important element to a press release. You have to write a headline that will immediately grab the attention of the media or journalists because this is the type of coverage and exposure that you should be looking for.
Daniel Roach says
I’d like to hear some success stories in a follow up of primarily online businesses that have benefited from press releases. I can see the merit in a great press release…sometimes, depending on what type of business you run and what sort of “news” you’re announcing. Just a guess, but I’d be willing to bet that the businesses / products that really see any benefit from press release fall in a pretty narrow range. So I don’t doubt that it’s a great tactic, but is it great tactic for the masses?
Greg Taylor says
Thanks for the post. Is it me or is the guide to writing a press release a lot like a guide to writing a killer blog post? Coincidence, I think not.
Jake Louis says
Not a coincidence – merely going unsaid.
VERY useful! I was just trying to explain the components to my intern last week.
I think I’ll just forward this article! Thanks
Lauren Shapiro says
I think one of the most detrimental mistakes you can make when writing anything, especially a press release, it to not proofread. Even if you do proofread, it’s always best to have a second set of eyes glance over your finished product. When I write, often come back to the “finished” piece hours later, giving my eyes and my brain a rest. And that “finished” piece? Well, it’s usually not finished when I come back and find a few typos that I carelessly missed the first time around.
With a press release, it’s all about credibility. No one will do business with a company that sends out a press release with typos or misspellings. It looks careless, and a company that has a careless press release often appears to be a careless company overall.
Jake Louis says
Gotta watch those typos, Lauren. 🙂
We all make them – perfect isn’t always necessary as long as the meaning is clear. It’s not always possible to have a second set of eyes, so practice – practice – practice.
Proper proof reading has got to be one of the most important things to remember. Where do press releases go? To journalists! Nothing bothers a journalist more than bad grammar. 🙂
I know enough journalists to always get an extra set of eyes on anything I write, press release or not.
Jake Louis says
I know many journalists also.
Try sending a pointless, self-serving piece – a disguised advert or anything non-newsworthy to them. All the perfect grammar in the world won’t save it. This is when they go ballistic.
The Sun doesn’t rise and set on perfect grammar. Pundits are disagreeing on interpretation and usage of language as I write this. It is always important, but it won’t ever trump relevance with a journalist.
This is why those same journalists have editors to clean-up their writing. They are pros at judging newsworthy items for their readers and listeners – not what constitutes perfectly written English.
Ever disagreed with the way a newspaper or magazine article was written? I do – everyday.
A quote gets em’ every time!
“Our new alliance with Marcus & Millichap combines their proved track-record and sales savvy, with our 20+ years of management experience. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involves,” proclaims Rick Rivera, president of CBM…
You can can layout facts and details by telling the story in a very passionate voice, without sounding over-the-top – I love it!
Press Releases are actually a lot of fun!
Lakshmi - Virtual assistant says
The post is really great. If there had been any samples of the Press Releases given then it would be more effective for readers. Hope to get more of the same in next posts.
Jake Louis says
Let’s talk about grammar and few other things that count as far as journalists are concerned. There seems to be some confusion about the subject of what’s important with press releases and what isn’t.
I wanted to be sure my info was up-to-date, so I called a few acquaintances that are either broadcast or print journalists now. Admittedly, I was also curious.
If this revenue stream was a priority with me, I would think twice about giving the info anyway. I still may fold it into a product, but the basic information is here for everyone to read.
It can definitely be argued that even this raw information would carry a hefty price tag. Few writing pros know all of this stuff.
The value of this information is that the intelligence is not hearsay or conjecture. The data is also very current (today) and immediately usable to gain a competitive advantage.
I specifically asked these 3 working journalists what their priorities and expectations were with press releases. Even though my business has no special focus on preparing these documents, I wanted to know what their expectations were anyway.
Not surprisingly, the responses were nearly identical for all 3 journalists. Most of this information was already known, but I did hear a couple of things that were important to hear again.
The information was obtained in a simple, informal Q&A teleconference.
It is not in any particular order or priority.
This is what they want:
A current, factual account or retelling
Key information within the first three paragraphs
Good titles that don’t go “over the top” (subjective)
Content that supports the title and vice-versa
No repeated mentions in an effort to drop the name of person or product
Omission of flowery language including the use of:
– too many nouns
– too few verbs
– too many breathless adjectives
– too many fancy or misapplied words that people don’t use
Submissions in the correct market
Submissions for topics they deal with
Some knowledge about the company or person being submitted
Excellent spelling and very good grammar
Proper use of English language (not necessarily perfect)
Accurate personal or company contact data to verify information
Simple, brief, easy-to-read presentations (1-2 pages max.)
These are simple things they especially like:
Exclusivity of the information
Correct details including the date of occurrence
Resources used (people and companies)
Receiving the release within the body of the email AND as an attachment
Both high- and low-resolution photos when necessary (faster access or better quality)
When possible – know a little about them and their specialized needs
What they DO NOT want:
Previously published stories
Calling to get permission to submit or to follow-up on a submission
Flashy presentations – no colors, HTML, wild or bright stationary or clever use of software
Documents on subjects they don’t deal with or without warning
Mention of a product or person in the subject line
Locked PDF documents
Use of the “important” flag in email submissions
Request for acknowledgment of receipt of email (return receipt)
Contradictory information within the same piece
Offers of gifts or “incentives” – this is seriously frowned upon
I wanted to get this data up quickly and I am aware that it isn’t pretty or written to my usual standards. Some of it is redundant and I would rather write it twice or three times rather than miss a key point.
Although it’s hastily put together, it is accurate. I rarely sit on information like this and prefer to distribute it in a simple format rather than delay to make it look good.
Speed always works for me with intelligence like this.
It’s possible to draw a few conclusions based on this information:
It is clear that journalists prefer to be approached in a no-nonsense, straightforward way. The documents need to be written to a minimal level of expression and language.
You aren’t going to baffle them with BS. The single most important comments form the journalists lead to logical deductions about how to write and submit these:
keep things simple, to the point and accurate.
This is common sense.
The single elements which were felt strongly were relevance and brevity. The feelings were also intense when the subjects of accuracy and getting to the point were discussed.
Grammar needed to be at a professional level, but not necessarily perfect. Some punctuation marks were deemed acceptable when subjectively used and – less punctuation was preferred.
However, one misspelling and your piece could end-up deleted or in the round file on the floor. This was a major stumbling block. The feelings by all were: if you couldn’t spell correctly, your facts may not be accurate either.
So, there is a need to pay attention to some specific details of grammar and English usage.
Individually, they receive hundreds of pieces daily or more. Perhaps 5% of the submissions are used. Their various publications receive several thousand daily.
These are bright, creative and VERY busy people. They don’t have time to respond and tell you that you didn’t get it right.
The overwhelming message for writers was not to waste the time of the journalists with unnecessary fillers and fluff. Make sure your information is accurate and not already previously used in another publication.
All complained about the large number of poorly written and submitted press releases. Most are deleted before they are ever scrutinized because of glaring, simple errors in the form and at first glance.
There is room to capitalize on the mistakes of many PR submission services and individuals that fail to submit according to these simple guidelines.
Another point implied, but not directly mentioned above is that it is very easy to get your documents disqualified by being to aggressive or pushy in any aspect of the presentation. This is a very easy line to cross.
Professionally, these individuals strongly dislike being put in a position of looking inept because of work submitted to them – and mentioned it specifically.
An interesting, simple scenario was proposed in which the following proposition was made:
Would you rather receive a press release on a hot topic written in a below-average way?
– or –
Would you prefer to receive a press release about an ordinary topic written very well?
All responded that the conditions in the first statement were strongly preferred.
The names of the journalists along with their respective media groups are being withheld because they are personal acquaintances. They responded and participated as a personal favor.
Hope some of you find the information useful. This should answer most questions about what a press release needs to be and do when presented to any resource.
Have a good weekend.
Press release was crucial for my business when it launched. We got some pretty good traffic when we distributed it.
Best thing is that it is always out there. So even months after you distribute it people search and find it and go directly to your website.
Jenny Lewis says
I also found this post very useful but I would have loved some “killer” examples. I’ll be coming back for that!
Wow, the comments on this entry are just as informative as the post itself! I think it is obvious from all the great suggestions that there could be several future posts on this topic, as many of the questions raised here I was thinking myself as I read it.
I’d particularly like to hear more about pitching the press release, because in some ways it seems like a more personal approach might be better to get responses, but I know there are also professional press release sites that send out to a bunch of people at once. A lot of people in my field (fiction writing) use these with a lot of success.
So yes please for a follow up post!
Mandy Vavrinak says
I realize I’m coming in late to this post, but as a PR pro (and someone who loves online releases because of the ability they give you to “package” the story, b-roll, backstory and images all into one lovely little SEO optimized bit of online real estate… I get the “but how do I get COVERAGE?” question frequently.
Frequently enough, actually, that I’ve written about it before. Here’s one” http://journalrecord.com/2010/07/01/how-to-not-be-ignored-by-the-media/
If you all have specific questions, let me know what they are. I’ll try to do a post answering them on my “usual” blog, referenced my comment signature. Thanks 🙂
Ron - Sales Copywriting | Blogging | SEO says
Excellent advice, BUT i have seen that it does any benefit regarding traffic only when it is somewhat NEWSWORTHY!
Norman Birnbach says
Some good discussion and exchange of ideas. Here’s another good article on press release basics, “Anatomy of a Pitch-Perfect Press Release” (http://nyreport.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Feature.showFeature&FeatureID=909&noheader=1) from New York Enterprise Report, a very good service-journalism magazine that’s aimed for small businesses in New York. The article even includes a good illustration of a basic press release.
What’s interesting is that there’s so much interest in press releases at a time when some reporters have claimed that the press release is dead. I don’t think the press release is dead, and wrote two blog articles relevant to this thread: “Are Press Releases Dead? (http://bit.ly/eMRIwG) and “When Is a Press Release Appropriate — Tips from the “Using PR and Social Media” Panel” (http://bit.ly/blyLgD).
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