A Press Release is News
A press release needs to report something newsworthy; it is not advertising. It must relate to something that is very specific – winning a contract, selling a company, hiring a key executive – something that is very significant and non-repetitive. If you can not identify that focused newsworthy event, don’t write the press release.
Since your press release deals with genuine news, it needs to include the key elements of a new article: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Include as much of that content in the first paragraph or two.
Characteristics of a Good Press Release
Avoid hyperbole. Provide the facts with as little elaboration as possible. The excitement in a press release should come from the message of the press release itself, not the adjectives used to describe the event.
Keep it short. The first paragraph should tell the whole story. Once a reader has finished the first paragraph, he should know immediately whether it is worthwhile reading the rest of the release. Your readers are busy and have to marshal their time wisely.
Page and a half max! Your press release should not be more than a page and a half long. One page is not a bad idea. You get points for short releases, not long ones.
Use key words. Search engines pick up on key words. Editors pick up on key words. Readers pick up on key words.
Make it easy to publish. Editors want material they can move to print with little effort. If an editor sees that he has to reword the piece, correct the grammar, or futz with the punctuation she is liable to skip over it. She has a deadline to meet and doesn’t want to waste time.
Include a picture. Press Releases with pictures are far more likely to be published. They are also far more likely to be picked up and republished. Make sure your picture reinforces the main message of you press release to the greatest extent possible. The format of your picture needs to meet the guidelines publishers want. Publishers will either use your pictures or drop them. They are unlikely to reformat them to suit their guidelines. The photo needs to be “good enough” – not necessarily professional grade.
Without question, the headline determines whether the press release is going to be a winner or a loser. It needs to be a “grabber” and tell the essence of your story in only a few words. I write the headline last. In fact, I’ll write several of them and mull them over for a few hours before finally choosing one.
Provide Links to Other Sites
Since press releases can’t be long or deal with more than one topic, it’s very useful to include links in the body of the press release to web sites that provide more background and detail. Embed those links freely.
Choose Your Audience Carefully
You will want to send your press release to hundreds or even thousands of editors. Each editor has a specific type of interest. Firms that distribute press releases (think PRWeb) charge by the number of releases sent out and the quality of the lists. Don’t be surprised if you need to pay $700 to $1,400 to send out your press release to target lists of editors. Choose those editors judiciously.
Don’t be Afraid of Humour
Funny press releases get read even if their topics are not right on target with the readers’ interests. Everyone has some time for some humour. Don’t be afraid to write a funny press release – but only if it is very well done.