The 12 Ironclad Rules for Issuing Press Releases
One thing that never changes is our desire to keep up with the news.
These days, most people prefer to read their news online. According to Pew Research, 89% of Americans get at least some of their local news online.
And, it’s not just consumers who are reading the news online. It’s just about everyone. While some SEOs assume press releases are merely an SEO tool, such couldn’t be further from the truth.
News readership statistics for the U.S. population
As a matter of fact, press releases are branding and credibility tools, not SEO tools. They are a great way to get the word out and more effectively brand companies, products, and services.
If a release is engaging enough, it can generate social signals, drive shares, direct targeted and organic traffic, and create journalistic interest abroad. All of this is in addition to the sweet maraschino cherry on top – the possibility of major media coverage.
To get all of these lovely amenities wrapped up with a big, red bow on top, you’ll have to play by the rules.
A press release lets you spread the word about your company and its offerings in an ethical, journalistic-manner that focuses on newsworthiness and branding over SEO, social media, or anything else. The simple tenets of who, what, where, why, and when apply (the five Ws).
To make it work, you’ll need to follow these 12 unbreakable rules for obtaining publicity.
Rule No. 1: Know How to Write a Press Release
If you have never written a press release, consider using a professional content writer or service. Press releases are about telling a story; your story. Writing from a journalistic approach takes years of studying and practice. That’s not to say that any good writer isn’t capable of doing it; it’s just that you want to be as knowledgeable as a professional or hire one.
Press releases must cover something newsworthy. A PR Daily article outlines six necessary AP style guide steps for composing your release to ensure that it’s newsworthy.
They include: stating your objective clearly, use the five Ws, minding your spacing, using proper grammar and style, and sharing names and titles correctly and appropriately.
The proper format for writing an effective press release
Rule No. 2: Know Your Audience
Writing for your audience is critical when producing any piece of content. A bit of demographical and customer research will go a long way toward achieving this goal.
For example, if your target market consists of the 45-and-over age group, using modern terms that don’t appeal to them won’t do much to help you gain traction. Understand your audience and who you are writing for before you craft your newsworthy release.
Rule No. 3: Understand Targeting
All releases are targeted when you set them up to go out for distribution. Proper targeting can mean the difference between thousands of reads and plenty of traffic streaming back to your money website or the lack thereof.
Be sure you research every industry your company, products, or services apply to before setting your industry targets pre-distribution.
Industry targeting options for distributing your press release
Rule No. 4: Craft a Punchy Elevator Pitch
Remember that press releases are a major form of branding, which is exponentially vital in today’s online marketing world. SEO today is often more about branding and engaging content than just getting backlinks.
The best way to write a classy elevator pitch with viral potential is to make sure you know your brand, understand your market, and have a deep understanding of the competitive edge you have to offer.
Still, you’ll also want to add some spice, bravado, and swagger to your headline to capture more attention.
A stagnant headline may be newsworthy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not making people pull their hair out when they read it. Read more on these in an article by TechCrunch.
An example of the most amazing press release ever written.
How to Write Bad PR Titles
Let’s say you own a software company that is releasing its next version with a much-anticipated update that users have begged for the past few years.
You could propose a boring title like: “XYZ Software Company Announces Newest Version of XYZ Pro.” This title certainly is newsworthy. It’s definitely going to get approved by the editors. But the problem is that it’s boring. It does nothing to engage the reader.
How to Create Good PR Titles
Try to be more creative. Revamp the title above to make it punchier, catchier, and more engaging. For instance: “Almost Human: XYZ Pro Takes Thinking Out of Doing; New Update Adds Human-Response Feature to Interface.”
Rule No. 5: Abide by the Editing Process
Editors at press release distribution services, newspapers, and online news websites are stringent. Keep in mind that they are usually fervent studiers of the English language, AP style, tone, and prose. They don’t see any wiggle room in proper grammar or adherence to style; they see only black and white with no spatial gray area in between.
A Community Tool Box publication offers some tips on avoiding press release rejection including using proper grammar, spelling, titles, style, and prose. Remember, editors won’t fix your document for you; that’s on you. They might make minor changes.
However, if your release is not almost picture-perfect, it will go in the rejection pile with all of the other shoddily composed (and promptly rejected) news releases that editors get bombarded with day after day.
Read this article by the Torontoist to find out what editors – like the one at the Star, mentioned in the article – do when they are over-inundated with error-prone articles and news releases.
Rule No. 6: Collaborate to Succeed
Teamwork goes far in helping to develop an effective press release. Collaboration is how some of the finest marketing pieces are created.
So why limit the idea of the piece and its composition to just your ideas? Instead, brainstorm with a few others and co-create and co-write the piece together. This will improve clarity and can drastically enhance the quality of your press release.
Rule No. 7: Cross-Promote to Gain Credibility
Cross promoting is often called free advertising, which is exactly how the Edward Lowe Foundation references it. Cross promoting can help your information spread across multiple platforms quickly.