Press Release Relief

Press Release Relief

Not ready to hire a PR firm but need to get the word out about your company? Here are seven tactics to consider as you write your company’s press releases.

By Melanie Rembrandt

If you have news to share with a large audience, distributing a press release is the most cost-effective way to announce important information quickly and easily, build brand awareness and increase website traffic.

“As a ‘mompreneur’ working with a tight budget, I distributed a press release to introduce our new site for self-published authors and offer valuable information,” says Jill Exler, founder of Jexbo. “This simple document helped us generate awareness and increase site traffic quickly, and we plan to send additional releases out in the future to help our business grow.”

Today, press releases don’t just attract attention from the press. “Rather than waiting for the evening news or the morning paper, 130 million Americans get their daily news through search engines like Google and Yahoo!,” says Bill Wagner, CMO at Vocus Inc., an on-demand software company for public relations management. “Today’s multimedia news releases include links and keywords to complement your marketing strategy and lead potential buyers straight to your website.”

Here’s how to get started:

1. Review competitor news and press releases from successful businesses. This will give you an idea of how effective press releases look and sound. You can also read through thousands of press releases at the Associated Press’s website, PR Newswire and BusinessWire. These organizations usually follow the Associated Press Stylebook, so you can use these releases as a guideline to write your own.

2. Create a headline that conveys the main message without clichés, gimmicks or extra copy. Try to stress a benefit and use action verbs written in the present tense. You can also add a short subhead to provide additional information and increase search-engine optimization.

3. Place important data at the top of your press release. Note that your headline may be the only copy picked up by search engines and other news sites. Plus, reporters often stop reading after the headline and first paragraph, so ensure that all key points are noted in the beginning of your release.

4. Focus on the benefits – not the features. As you’re writing, think about the key elements your audience will find interesting. What’s in it for them? Insert quotes from pertinent people. But try to avoid blatant statements about your “excitement” over the news. Instead, use the quote to provide valuable new information, statistics or data.

5. Optimize for search engines. To get the most visibility, check into search engine optimization services that can add pertinent links, embedded images, video, RSS feeds and podcasts to your release. And if this falls outside of your budget, insert your own keywords and links. While writing, focus on the newsworthy elements, but also include words critical to your industry that are searched frequently. For example, PINK will want to include words and phrases like “women in business” or “professional women” multiple times so that search engines will pick up the press release when someone searches those phrases.

6. Include a boiler plate. This is a brief “about” paragraph at the end of a press release that provides succinct information on your organization. Remember to include contact data here so that media members can easily reach you at any time.

7. Proofread. When you’re finished, ask someone to check your work for errors, tone and newsworthiness. Ask if this person would be compelled to find out more after reading what you’ve written. This way, your press release will convey valid, interesting information to help build credibility and generate interest.

Melanie Rembrandt is an experienced publicist and author of 7 Simple Steps to Startup PR Success. She helps entrepreneurs increase awareness and sales via her business, Rembrandt Communications®, free newsletter and blog.

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