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Press Releases

Press ReleaseHow people look for information has changed. The process now involves a quick search on the Web to find the links to content, references and other information that gets the attention of the person looking through a ton of information.  To get noticed you need to write for two audiences:

  • The people searching for your products and services.
  • The search engines that find your content and bring it to their attention.

It is important that you post an online news release on your website and that you post links to that release in as many relevant places you can think of.  The basic components of a press release include:

  • Headline
  • Summary
  • Dateline and Lead
  • Body
  • Boilerplate Statement
  • Contact Information

Press Release Objectives

Press Release writing has much in common with advertising.

Your opening paragraph has to capture the attention.  You only have a few seconds to grab the prospect’ attention: capture it with a powerful headline, summary and first paragraph to announce your news.  The rest of your release provides the detail.  Make yourself known: if a release does not identify the source of the information within the first few paragraphs, the promotional value your release can be lost.  Make sure you do not include hype, slang, excessive exclamation points or other common mistakes that make it look like an advertisement rather than a news release, which affects credibility.

The goal is that your release is picked up and widely published, but sloppy writing will expose your flaws to a larger audience.  Speak plainly using ordinary language so that you can reach a much broader audience than just the technical insiders. Remember the purpose of distributing informational and timely information of interest to the audience and that by your choice of language you can really narrow that audience.  Avoid Clichés: your audience gets turned off by “customers save money” or “great customer service”. Focus on the aspects of your announcement that truly set you apart from everyone else.  Make sure that your release has a good hook that ties in with current events relevant to the core message. 

One advantage of posting via your website is that you have logos and headlines, and also links to product photographs, audio files, video files, PDF documents or any other supplemental materials that can strengthen your release.  Use anchor text and insert explicit hyperlinks to point readers back into your website that carries details of what you have to offer (even if the text is lifted into another media).  Use anecdotes to illustrate how your company or organization solved an identified problem and how your solution is the right solution.

Press Release Self-Promotion

There is no harm in self-promotion: that is the purpose of news- or press release distribution and a successful way to create expert status.   It may be a company has reached a milestone or an anniversary or received an award: tell the world what you did right.   Write a release that offers readers helpful hints in your field of expertise, but only sell the sizzle, not the steak: always draw them into your establishment or website to learn more and to lead them to a purchasing decision.  Use a promotion to entice the readers to click through to your website and make it time-limited to call for action.

Like advertising, tell the truth, avoid embellishments, hype and exaggerations.  If you think that your press release seems sensational, your readers will likely think so too.  It is best to use the “active voice” to bring your press release to life and do not hesitate to use strong verbs.  Don’t ramble on but keep the message concise and focused to make it more likely that it will be picked up.  Keep the structure simple, with few tables or lists, to make it easier to migrate to another medium.  Use your Word grammar and spelling checker to eliminate errors, but you cannot rely “two much” on automation that you do not want to do an extra visual check before posting.

Your release will compete with several hundred others posted around the same time so it has to stand out to be noticed.  Make sure the message is strong and free of mistakes: we only have one first impression.  Make sure you have content and substance: don’t use all capital letters to emphasize anything, and remember that grammatical errors kill your credibility.  Try to avoid the words “you”, “I” or “we” outside a quoted statement.

All Companies Have News

Even a home business may have plenty of information to share—new products, a new website, a new employee, all topics that can be used to help increase your business’s online visibility. Here are some of the most common release topics.

Announcing a new product or feature, or winning an award.

Product launches are fundamental to a company’s growth. Generate maximum online visibility for each product launch with online marketing and promotions.  Awards give company credibility with customers—sending out an online news release generates the attention your award deserves. 

Announcing an employee change or launching a new partnership.

Employee promotions or new hires can be big news: sharing that with the world shows that the business is growing and that you value your team.  Sharing news about a business partnership promotes your success, highlights your company’s growth, builds credibility for your company and your partner’s company, and potentially leads to new customers for both organizations.

Hosting a fundraising dinner or technology summit / sharing survey results

Successful events need publicity—announce your event online, so millions of people learn how to participate in or support the event.  Keep your prospects up to date while driving traffic to your web site by promoting your event.  Market research helps to build credibility and awareness for initiatives if information is broadly shared, including using survey data to identify industry-trends or to build support for a key program: share that information.

Crafting a Headline

A good online news release headline:

·         Provides information—avoid a marketing pitch or advertisement copy style

·         Contains keywords people are likely to search to get similar information

·         Gets a reader’s attention: it may be the only information they see at first

·         Makes the reader want to learn more about what you have to offer

Depending on the media the length of the headline may be limited to 60 characters in some cases.  Capitalize the first letter of every word except for prepositions and articles of three characters or less.  It is best to write your headline and summary last to be sure you include the most important keywords and information captured in the release.  It is useful to go through some actual press releases to get a flavor of what the style is that you should use with your particular audience.

Write4hire.com Launches new Website

Helpful Information Offered to Customers

Boilerplate Description

Boilerplate content is described as “a unit of writing that can be used over and over without change”.  In the press release this is typically “About the Company” material or standard copy about important people, services, or details in your release, as well as “safe harbor” statements in financial releases.  These can include references to contacts or spokespersons, information that provides the media and everyone else interested in what you have to say a way to reach you.  Boilerplate is not limited to press releases, as there are many applications where you don’t want communications “ad-libbed” so that it is rife for misinterpretation.

You can build a library of standard paragraphs to be included in different publications or communications: for example, standard legal disclaimers as approved by counsel should be part of this library and inserted as paragraphs where applicable.  Similarly you can set up standard descriptions for frequently asked questions that will have you assemble the response to most queries in 2 minutes tops: such a personalized response with links into your website is a great public relations service that tells customers they count.  As part of a press release they deliver the same factual information you tell everyone, such as a short description of the company, goals and objectives, new initiatives, sales campaigns, literally countless sections of information that you cut-and-paste anywhere.

Boilerplate paragraphs are also used in financial reports, proposals, announcements of all kinds, because the exact wording will reinforce the message over and over again.  By combining those paragraphs with truly new information (like quarterly results, specific product announcements, or targeted proposals) you also reduce the effort involved for creating that document.  If you combine boilerplate with templates you can mark where to use specific paragraphs with “PB{--URL--}” for example, that means your staff will get the current version of that paragraph and insert it into the template for the document in question.  We will be glad to assist you in the creation and implementation of a library of boilerplate paragraphs and templates.

Crafting a Dateline and Lead

The lead and the first paragraph of a press release announce what you have to say, and provide answers to as many of the critical “who, what, when, where, why and how” questions as possible.  Keep the lead paragraph compelling and simple: grab a reader’s attention and say what you are going to announce.

City, Prov., Day, Month, Year—the most important information you want to announce.

Toronto, On, July 1, 2012— Write4hire.com formally launches a new website to show its products and services, with their new streamlined processes to deliver customers superior writing and website development services.  Write4hire.com remains committed to small business clients, while expanding its reach to serve larger customers with more challenging website requirements.

The first paragraph repeats some of the summary paragraph information for consistency but otherwise is has to be self-contained.  The important keywords are in the headline, summary, and lead paragraph.  The company name actually implies the web address.  If your news is not groundbreaking, your press should be.  An experienced writer can provide a unique twist and focus on what makes you different and create a sense of urgency – “Consumers need to know about this innovative solution now.”

Crafting a Press Release Body

Only after an introductory paragraph can you start to tell the full story of what you want to announce to the world, to provide the full information that the reader is interested in.  Try to emulate a news reporter telling the story about your company: this increases the possibility that the copy will be picked up and published as a news item.  Keep it to a length of 250-750 words: enough to make a story, short enough to fit available space.

A news reporter will begin with an opening paragraph that elaborates on who, what, when, where, why, and how related to what you have announced.  Expand the story with details that support what you have announced, and to add interest to, or reinforce, the core message.  This is a good place where you include quotes from key staff, clients, or subject matter experts at large.  You can add statistics, charts, pictures, or evidence of any kind, to provide detail about the information you are sharing.  Insert links to the website as http://www.write4hire.com that instantly bring the readers to your website.

Usually the final paragraph of a news release contains the least important parts of the information but if you use an on-line news release this is the opportunity to repeat and summarize key points of the overall release, and to include hyperlinks that take readers to specific topic sections within the website.  It may also provide any legal language or product/service details or disclaimers or credits that may be prudent to include, often in a smaller font to remove emphasis.

Crafting a Summary

The summary paragraph is just a synopsis of the information contained in the release, and it typically follows the headline to give you an opportunity for a brief description of your business and the information you are sharing.  Some media will only display your headline, summary and a link to your news release: without a summary paragraph, you may reduce the effectiveness of your news release since readers will not be enticed to click through for more information.  Typically you use 1 – 4 sentences to make the point.

Start with the company name if it is not in the headline already, and then the important items first, including a link to your website.

Write4hire.com, a writing, editing, and website building service, announces the launch of a new website and a streamlined process for delivering customers with writing and website development services they require.

Mistakes You Can Avoid

Never write directly to the target audience, always use the 3rd-party form, and never use “I” or “we” to refer to yourself or the company if you want to make this release come across as news.  Do not undermine the credibility of that 3rd-party form by using forms of emphasis or excitement (capitalized, exclamation points, hyperbole, etc.). 

Don’t use email addresses in the body of the text or it is sure to end up in a mailing list.  Avoid the use of lists and complex tables that can cause the release to be rejected by search tools.  Keep the links to one per 100 words or fewer, to avoid link spam, and keep sentences and paragraphs short (use fewer than 5 lines / paragraph).

Prior to releasing your information perform a final check to confirm the release contains a clear message, timely and free of advertising hype, direct marketing and spam.  Make sure your release is informational and timely, of interest to your specific audiences to be reported on.  Your release should not look or read like it is advertising, direct marketing, a general interest article, a company description, or “an open letter”.  Timeliness of information is also critical—there must be a reason your organization is announcing the information.

Get written approval for ticker symbols other than your own: do not use unless you have express written permission to use another company’s ticker symbol.  Convert charts and graphs to images or PDFs. Attach graphs and charts to your release by converting them to images or PDFs as they may not display properly if they are cut and pasted into the text of your news release.  Lastly, never quote sources without permission. Not only is it proper etiquette, it’s ethical and it ensures your press release has the blessing of everyone involved