Press Releases: Dos and Don’ts

If you’ve got something to share – a story to tell, an event to promote, or an announcement to make – a Press Release is a great vehicle for communicating your news to the media, your industry and even the greater public. It’s an unapologetic forum for patting yourself on the proverbial back, sharing successes, informing, and advancing a cause. But a press release needs to follow a prescribed format, particularly if your release is to be posted on PRWeb or tendered to a service that monitors submissions prior to posting or distributing. So here are some of the guidelines you can use to ensure your release meets the basic requirements of the format for maximum exposure and pickup by the media.

1.     Every release needs the following components:

  • Headline – Limit it to 50-65 characters, In Title Case. 

    Applied Innovations Launches New Web Panel

  • Description – Up to 150 characters, can be composed of up to two sentences expanding slightly on the headline.Example:
    Applied Innovations launches significantly improved and expanded Web Panel, now available to all shared, VPS and Dedicated web hosting customers.

  • Location and Date– Start the first paragraph with your city, state, and the date of release, followed by a colon or M dash.Example:
    Boca Raton, FL | April 15, 2011 – (Body Content begins here)

  • Body Content– A press release should be at least 300 words, but generally no more than 700 total. Use attachments or refer to other sources for further explanation or support.
  • About – Finish the release with a general descriptive paragraph about your company that’s loaded with keywords and backlinks to relevant pages on your website.
  • Contact – Provide a media contact at your company, including name, title, email address, phone number and mailing address.

2.     Newsworthiness

There are broad shades of grey in terms of newsworthiness, ranging from stuff even your mom doesn’t care about to the news that hits the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Obviously, the goal is to publish information that someone, somewhere, somehow will find interesting and relevant. (Maybe that’s not obvious to everyone?) But if you think people want to know that your company just installed an incredibly cool new coffee machine, well, then, that’s your prerogative.

3.     Third Person

Press releases should be written in third person, and at least appear to have a semblance of objectivity. That doesn’t mean that you can’t offer opinion; you just need to identify subjective material appropriately. Frame it as a quotation by a member of your team or an industry expert. Even then, minimize the superlatives, unless that’s really the point of the story. Avoid exclamation points.

4.     Format and Style

Use action words in your headline: Announces, Launches, Unveils, Celebrates, Releases, Surpasses… You get the idea.

Avoid writing in capital letters, as it’s perceived of as YELLING.  Follow all standard grammar conventions.  Have someone proof read your release before you post it – a second set of eyes is always beneficial, no matter how good a writer you are are. skilled at writing you are. good you right… (Don’t trust it all to spell check!)

Write in newspaper style: be clear, concise and accurate. Answer six basic questions in the release: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Use short sentences and active voice.

5.     SEO

Optimize your release just as you would in writing a web page. Use appropriate, targeted keywords throughout and link anchor text back to appropriate pages on your site.

Now that you have written it, what do you do with it? One of the most popular resources for press release distribution is PRWeb , which offers several different packages for posting releases.

“I’ve been using PRWeb for years now, for all my clients,” stated Lyza Latham, founder of AcuteVisibility, a branding, marketing and search engine optimization agency. “With the Advanced Package, each release is permanently published on the web with multiple backlinks to the client site, for maximum visibility and SEO value.”

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