How to Write an Effective Press Release
Guest post by Laurel Shane
Press releases (also called news releases) can be a great way to get news about your business to the media, your current customers, and potential new customers. Unlike direct advertisements, press releases are written in the objective third-person voice, just like newspaper articles.
Press releases used to land in the newsroom, where the story would live or die on an editorial whim. But nowadays, numerous online services will post your release and send it to hundreds of news organizations, building strong links to your website in the process. The good news is that you can easily get your message out there. The bad news is that everyone else can, too, including your competitors.
So how do you make your press release stand out from the crowd? Just follow these six steps.
Write an attention-grabbing headline. The basic formula for a headline is Company Announces Thing. But spice it up a bit! Add an adjective about your company: leading, popular, local, beloved, family-owned. If you’re working on search engine optimization (SEO), throw in a keyword phrase. Try an active verb: declares, advocates, reveals, proclaims.
Instead of “Dan’s Burgers Announces Extended Hours on Weekends,” try something like, “Popular San Francisco Burger Joint Now Caters to the Late-Night Crowd.”*
- Put the most important information first. No matter how interesting your press release may be, busy reporters and online readers will probably not read the whole thing. Make sure you frontload the news release with the most important information. Your first paragraph should contain the who, what, when, where, and why of the story.
Due to popular demand [why], Dan’s Burgers [who], a family-owned San Francisco eatery [where], is now open until midnight [what] on Friday and Saturday nights [when].
- Use a quote. After the introductory paragraph, add a quote from a relevant person about the announcement. This is a good place to insert opinions and maybe just a bit of hyperbole.
“We had a ton of customer requests to stay open later on the weekends. Making our customers happy is what we’re known for—other than our charcoal-grilled burgers, of course—so we’re giving the people what they want,” said owner Dan Davis. “Stop by and satisfy your cravings with a mouthwatering late-night meal.”
- Add any other relevant information. After the quote, you can elaborate on the information in the first paragraph. In the Dan’s Burgers example, I would add a paragraph about how happy the customers are about the later hours, and I’d use a customer quote. I would probably add a short history of the restaurant and give the address. You want to give enough information to put your announcement in context, but not so much information that readers’ eyes glaze over.
- Give contact information. At the end of your announcement, add a sentence about how people can reach you.
For more information about our extended hours, call (415) 345-6789 or visit our website, dansburgerssf.com.
- Insert your boilerplate. The boilerplate is a paragraph that contains basic information about your business. It should be generic enough that you can use the same boilerplate for every press release—the content is not affected by the particular announcement.
About Dan’s Burgers:
Dan’s Burgers has been serving up juicy Angus burgers, crispy fries, and creamy milkshakes for over fifteen years. With three San Francisco locations to choose from, it’s become a popular destination for families, students, and anyone looking for a great lunch or dinner in a friendly atmosphere. Visit dansburgerssf.com or follow us on Facebook to learn more.
And that’s all there is to it! Once you’ve written and proofread your press release, you can submit it to an online press release service. The fees vary wildly, from around $80 up to $800. Higher-end services include PRNewswire [http://prnewswire.com/] and Businesswire [http://businesswire.com/]. PRWeb is in the middle [http://www.prweb.com/]. Online PR Media [http://www.onlineprnews.com/] is on the lower end. There are free distribution services, but they have small reach and low credibility; I would not recommend using them.
One final note about SEO: A few years ago, businesses would stuff online press releases with hyperlinked keyword phrases to get higher rankings in searches. But recent changes in Google’s algorithm actually punish people for doing this, so be careful. It’s still good to use keyword phrases, but don’t overdo it, and don’t stick a link under all of them. Just write in a natural style and insert links where it makes sense to insert links.
Follow these instructions, and your news will get the attention it deserves.
*My apologies to any hungry people in San Francisco, but Dan’s Burgers is a fictional restaurant.
Laurel Shane is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in creating clear, concise, grammatically correct text that will draw in and inform readers. She is the founder of Let’s Just Be Clear, an online writing and editing service that helps businesses engage and expand their online audience with attention-grabbing, SEO-friendly website content, blog posts, press releases, email newsletters, and social media campaigns.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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