Nothing is more synonymous with PR than the press release. A tool that important requires some review for ways to improve it and make it more effective.
We already know that the press release is treated as the introduction to a story by our friends in the media. Few reporters use those quotes written in the releases. Don’t they know the countless revisions that quote required? At any rate, there is a valid reason why few things are taken from a press release any more.
And that’s why this is your PSA of the week: Here are 16 tips to improve your press release for results.
1. tl;dr. Our younger cronies know immediately what this means. Older folks? This means “too long; didn’t read.” As in, your boiler plate 600-word release is probably deterring journos. And then when you add five to seven paragraphs of “important information,” well… you can imagine why you don’t get call backs.
2. Message. A cardinal rule with any form of writing is to leave the reader wanting more. What’s that one last bit of information that will make the reporter think, “Now that’s my story.” How you wrap up your release is just as important as that headline you spent a good hour concocting. Leave a good statement and have a great result.
3. Jargon. It sucks, okay? From accounting to tech, legal to B2B, jargon is awful in any industry when communicating to the public. It stiffens your content and doesn’t come across as natural. All that insider fluff looks like the client wrote it and you checked for punctuation. Write for the consumer, not the shareholder.
4. Diversify. Some agencies are known for only one or two types of releases. In some situations, a reporter sees your name in the inbox and exclaims, “Lemme guess. A new product that will change my life?” If that’s all you write, take another angle and get some attention.
5. Timing. When does your client usually want to send a release? 10 a.m.? 11:30 a.m.? Everyone sends their important news at the top and bottom of the hour. Here’s a clue: Don’t do that! If you follow the joneses, your release becomes filler in the “auto-delete” stack at the assignment desk.
6. Quotes. For many clients, regretfully, press releases have more to do with narcissism than news. We know all the executives are important in your client’s company, but they don’t all have to be in the same release. Use the person closely related to the news and save the space for stuff that matters.
7. Writing. Many PRs are hacks-turned-flacks. Others are former journalism majors. Some are even novice grammarians. The point is that some of them know how to write well, while others do not. The pros should be the ones writing press releases.
8. CTA. The call-to-action is usually the missing ingredient in most press releases. You have a new widget or a promoted executive, but then what? Is your URL trackable? Are your hyperlinks strategic? Point the reader somewhere to learn more or you may get less than you wanted.
9. Multimedia. It may cost more by wire, but adding an extra image or even a video is so worth it. PR Newswire has research that shows visibility of your press release content could increase by 552 percent. The press release is so much more than a few paragraphs and a quote. It’s a full story, and those usually require images.
10. Headlines. Want to capture big fish? Use sizable bait. You are never going to garner some bigwig journalist with whimsy and a three-line introductory sentence. That headline has to summarize and incentivize. Why would your target care to read ahead? Without the keywords and CTA right there, consider this effort in vain.
11. Superlatives. Every journalist you know can already assume your widget is the “most wonderful, splendiferous, amazeballs, kick-ass” thing your industry has ever seen. Those words do not belong inside the premise of the release. If it’s necessary, only place those fancy words in a quote.
12. Emotion. Before you send the release that you have spent hours editing, ask yourself, “Does the audience care half as much as we do?” Almost always, the answer is an emphatic “No!” They won’t feel the same way you do, so manage expectations when it comes to shares, views, and conversion.
13. Sources. Did you know that 38 percent of all statistics are completely full of crap because people never cite sources? See what we did there? Many PRs do that as well, only they don’t mean to. Journalists read your baffling statistics and immediately search for the source. Without them, you have no credibility. Without that, you have no story… 100 percent of the time.
14. SEO. Please note, you can’t SEO a press release to death. Do that, and send at your peril. There is an art and a science to SEO implementation to a press release. You can’t stuff keywords in the copy thinking you are going to fool search engines. You won’t. You’re not that smart. Accept that, do the smart thing, get a skilled digital expert to help and send with a smile.
15. Ego. Here’s the thing with press releases: Although they are about you… they’re not all about you. Some of the best press releases include others who can discuss trends, topics, and benchmarks in an industry. Your award may be shiny, but that’s not news. Your sales may be impressive, but again, not news.
16. Chill. Your news is breaking, but is it “breaking news?” Write the way you want the information to be conveyed. Share the news the way you want it to be read, heard, and seen. Your client (should) thank you for it.