The press release is not dead

28 01 2011

In the age of social networking, blogs and video sharing, some might think that the press release has gone the way of the dinosaur.

That’s not the case.

In a post published this week, the folks over at not only confirm that the press release is still a viable tool for getting the word out, they also provide six essential steps for writing an effective one. Guest blogger Jiyan Wei — Director of Product Management for PRWeb and a frequent speaker at marketing, PR and SEO events — explains that a press release can “tell a story, report news, or help a cause.”

The idea is to grab the reader’s attention — usually a journalist — and get he/she to share your message with his/her sizable audience. A good press release can catapult visibility of the message and lead to real results.

Here’s how you do it in today’s media landscape:

1. Craft a hook: You need to tell your audience — again, primarily journalists — what your message is and why their viewers/listeners/readers would be interested.

“Reduce the basics of your message down to one sentence that answers the 5 W’s of reporting — who, what, when, where and why,” Wei writes, “and find that story hook that will help them write a story their readers won’t forget.”

2. Add a great headline: As is the case with blog or Twitter headlines, you only have a few seconds to grab a reader’s attention with a press release. The headline should be short and direct. Often, it should address the reader directly or even ask a question. One thing it should not be is boring.

Wei also explains the importance of leading with a concept rather than your brand name:

“Your audience (both readers and reporters) probably don’t care about your brand or company name,” she writes, “but they do care about finding a good story.”

3. Avoid jargon: It’s important to minimize technical or industry jargon. You want as many people as possible to be able to relate to your message, thus increasing the likelihood the content is shared.

As a former newspaper sportswriter, I was taught to “write for your mom.” Though this axiom is unfair to sports-savvy moms everywhere, the point is well-taken. By explaining things in a way that just about anyone can understand, you reach more people.

4. Provide resources: With so many new forms of technology available, it only makes sense to incorporate them into your press releases. Photos, videos, links to source material and any other in-depth resources make it easier for your readers (journalists) to fully report the news you are providing them.

Wei writes: “A complete ‘package’ of supporting resources makes your story that much more appealing to a reporter.”

5. Proofread: This one seems obvious, but it bears mentioning. A spelling or grammar error can ruin your credibility. Make sure you read over your press release more than once. Reading it out load is a good idea. Having another person look it over is even better.

6. Share your news: “A good news release distribution service will syndicate your news on relevant publisher sites,” Wei writes, “and it will also attract readers through search (be sure to be strategic about keywords, as with any other kind of content marketing).”

Also, share your press release with influencers in your space via e-mail or social media outlets.

By keeping your audience in mind and following these six guidelines, you’ll find that the old-fashioned press release isn’t old-fashioned at all; it remains an effective tool for trumpeting your message and inspiring others to act.

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