Press releases are dead, right?
Yes . . . and no.
If you’re a solopreneur or even a small-to-medium sized business, writing a press release is not an effective way to get the attention of major media outlets. There are just too many press releases and not enough journalists, so only the very important releases from really big companies ever get read.
Press release writing can sometimes be effective for communicating with your local, small market media outlets, especially if your release has a local news angle. But there’s an even better way to use press releases, and that’s to talk directly to your potential customers… online.
How can a press release help you talk to your customers?
Let us count the ways:
1. A history of widely-distributed press releases provides something for your customers to find
Let’s face it, you’re going to get “Googled” by your prospects. It’s natural for them to want to know more about you before doing business with you. So why not give them something to find?
Older press releases will demonstrate that your company has been around for a while, and reassure the customer that you’re not a fly-by-night outfit. And being written up on other websites, even when the customer can plainly see that it’s a press release, does still lend you a (tiny) bit of credibility.
2. It helps you to craft your image
Before you go firing off several press releases about how you updated your website from version 2.01 to version 2.02, have a good think about how this kind of thing will look to customers right now and many years into the future.
A press release is an opportunity to tell your story, or at least help frame how customers perceive you. A series of meaningless updates will be seen as just that. But stories that announce things like how you donated to a particular cause, or how you received an award for excellence in the service you provide will help you build your brand over time.
Pro tip: never, ever, ever fake this kind of thing, and never do something for the potential PR value you can get out of it.
3. It keeps your website fresh
One of the many factors search engines use in determining where to position your site in search engine results is how “fresh” or how frequently updated it is. By regularly updating the News section of your site (and you do have one of those, don’t you?) with a version of your releases, you’ll improve your search engine rank. This is critical if you want your customers to find you and your products or services.
4. The web works in mysterious ways
There is a crazy amount of value in just putting something “out there” and seeing what happens. For example, a story about how you and your staff adopted a highway might be seen by someone who works for the local roads department, who has a brother who needs exactly what you sell. And this could happen when you first put out the release, or, because it’s the Internet and things like this stay available almost permanently, a year later.
Press release . . . like a boss
Press release writing isn’t something everyone is familiar with, since it is a specialized skillset that isn’t taught universally in school. You can outsource it to professional writers if you don’t want to deal with it yourself. If you want to try your hand at press release writing until then, however, read on for a few tips to guide you along.
Spend time on the headline
Titles and headlines are what bring your reader in, and it’s no different for press release writing. For that reason, these need to be crafted to quickly grab your reader’s attention. Short, snappy headlines are best. Make sure it’s to the point and accurate, too. As soon as your audience sees the headline, they should know what the press release will be about.
On that note, if you do email it to various news sources, make sure the subject line of the email is as snappy and informative as your headline. This could be the most difficult part of press release writing, so don’t let it fall by the wayside.
Keep your reader engaged
In the same way that your reader doesn’t want to be bogged down by lengthy headlines, they don’t want to hunt through paragraphs to get to the point. In the digital age, when information is transmitted and internalized in a split second, you want to make sure your reader has the basic, important information in the first paragraph. Most of the time, readers will only skim the rest of the article, so you don’t want to let them skim over the good stuff. The first couple of sentences should contain the things you most want your audience to know.
Press release writing should be concise
Lose the flowery language! Keep it concise and grounded in facts. Don’t worry about getting creative with your writing because that isn’t the point. A press release conveys information, numbers, and evidence to support your assertions, and that’s all you need.
And since you’re avoiding the fluff, your press release should be one page. Two pages is the absolute longest a press release should ever be. The shorter, the better.
Don’t forget contact and relevant information
You’re sending out a press release to grab attention, so you need to include some contact information. There isn’t much use to a press release if the reader has no idea how to contact you once you’ve piqued their interest. The email, telephone number, and the name of the person who is the main contact for press release queries should be included.
Don’t forget to include the website for your company. This saves the journalist the hassle of searching Google when researching your company. This will immediately improve your connection with them, which is a positive consequence for the future. It shows that you’ve been thoughtful and comprehensive in your press release writing, and the journalist will appreciate that.
Don’t forget the little details
Good press release writing is in the details. This includes both content and style. Double check that your press release doesn’t have any grammatical mistakes. It’s also a good idea to have an outsider or a professional look over the press release before sending it out. This looks more professional.
Finally, a very important detail that is easy to forget is the human aspect. If you can, incorporate a quote from a customer or employee. This provides a bit of personality without subtracting from the concise, fact-based quality of your press release writing.