This is one of our most popular posts. We updated it Feb. 26, 2019, to make it even more relevant. We hope you enjoy it!
PR has seen many changes in the past few years -- including technology, distribution of news, and the challenges facing journalists. Do these changes signal a shift away from the press release? Not at all! When crafted correctly, press releases are valuable PR tools. Learn what press release best practices for 2019 can make your news and announcements more effective in today’s competitive world.
10 Press Release Best Practices That You Can Take to the Bank
1. Make Your Headline Pop
Your press release headlines may be a relatively small part of your release, but play a huge role in its effectiveness. Your headline, or press release title, sets the tone for what to expect.
These few words can make the difference between an open or a pass. Make your headline count with following pointers.
Use action words that capture the reader’s attention, and empower your message.
Take diction into consideration. The rhythm of your headline can play a large role in how it appeals to readers.
Keep it short and sweet to please the search engine powers that be, as well as prospective readers. The optimal length for a press release headline should be 100 characters or fewer. This also helps if people later want to tweet your press release.
Extra tip: If you would like your press release to be effectively indexed by Google, fit all your essential information in the first 65 words (which is all will show up in Google search results).
Use well-known abbreviations in your press release headline to keep it short. For example, instead of ABC Corporation, you could use ABC Corp.
Make it stand out among the dozens of press release titles that journalists read on a daily basis.
Use human language -- in other words, skip the hype. Avoid stuffing your title with keywords, slang, idioms, or industry jargon. Use simple, every-day language. Search engines favor such human-sounding headlines over exaggeration or word-play.
These guidelines are just that -- guidelines. Don't be afraid to play around until you find the right format and style for your audience. For example, you may find that for your targeted audience, industry jargon brings the best results.
I would even recommend that you finish the body of your press release before brainstorming titles. This gives you time to create a headline that embodies the tone and message of your whole release.
Bottom Line: Don't rush the creation of your headline. Take the time to craft press release titles that will pack a punch and leave a lasting impression. It may very well be the most important part of your whole press release.
2. Make Your Point and Be Quick About it
Focus on answering the focal question, “Why should I care?” This is, after all, the question that all reporters, bloggers, and influencers ask when they read a press release. Why would their audience want to read about your news?
Cover all the essential information in the first paragraph. Answer all the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions as soon as possible.
Skip any unnecessary background information that could needlessly weigh down the importance of your message. Instead, give the straight-up facts so journalists can quickly understand the story and aren't left deciphering what it's about. Don't forget that prospects will also read your release so be sure to make it accessible.
Pay special attention to your grammar, spacing, and style. Small things like appropriately formatted names and titles or correct punctuation and syntax could make or break your press release.
Sadly, even small mistakes can minimize the impact of your press release. Editors won't take the time to correct your mistakes -- if it doesn't meet specific press release standards, it will end up in the trash! So double and triple check all of your work before distribution.
3. Use a Killer Quote
Personal and pertinent quotes add a human touch to your release. It makes a reader feel like this is not just another commercial company looking for the limelight. A quote gives the message that your news affects real people, and others will want to hear about it.
Choose someone -- two people at the most -- who is an authority within the company. This could also be someone whom the press release directly affects. People want to hear from executives, project leaders, or stakeholders. The more important the individual, the more weight the quote will have to reporters and their readers.
Not just any quote will do. Choose a quote that personifies your core message. This will take your announcement from mere background noise, and infuse it with an up-close-and-personal touch that attracts attention.
4. Use Press Release SEO Best Practices
Distribution platforms typically use nofollow links for press releases. This change came about as a result of countless brands using press releases as an SEO charter ship where they used backlinks and keywords as stowaways. Eventually, search engines caught on and, just like with other digital content, penalized for keyword stuffing, overuse of links, and general spammy content.
So, if you aren't able to get SEO value from your press release, is it still a valuable tool? Absolutely. It all boils down to using the press release as a vessel to communicate valuable information. If your release contains information pertinent to your company, its investors, or the general public, you can bet there's value in its distribution.
And, even though it may not have a significant, instant impact on your SEO, remember that you're still gaining traffic to your site with the potential for lead generation, not to mention brand exposure.
5. Don’t Make Your Press Release Too Long
Don’t overwhelm your reader with too much information. So, exactly how long should a press release be? The sweet spot is right around a page -- two tops. Any more, and you’d be wasting space. This isn’t an essay or novella -- your goal should be to relay enough of the relevant details for a journalist to make it his or her own.
Use white space as much as possible -- long paragraphs look and feel overwhelming to readers. Break up information into bulleted lists to make the information easy to digest.
View your press release more like bait -- if you want the fish to bite, it should not be too big to swallow.
6. Use Visual Content
The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text. Use that to your advantage in your press release. Visuals capture a reader’s attention, and allow people to more easily digest information.
Tell your story as visually as possible. Include infographics with key statistics and data, photos of your product, or a video demonstration. Replace those dry numbers with a colorful chart that visually emphasizes your point. This adds value to your press release, and could make the difference in a journalist choosing to cover your story over another.
Consider embedding video in your release to give readers a first-hand view of your product or service. Here's an example of a Japanese hotel showcasing its cultural experience in an accessible, engaging way.
Some press release distribution services (discussed in more detail below) will charge extra to add visual content. But this is well worth the price! Visuals are a major draw for journalists who are on the hunt for their next story.
Many feel overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of creating visual graphics. Fortunately, sites like Canva and other free PR tools make it super easy and convenient to get the look you want. Use any of their free templates or elements, choose from thousands of low-cost stock photos, and craft the perfect images for your press release.
7. Make the Last Paragraph Count
By the end of your press release, you have likely provided all the essential information. Don’t overload the final paragraph with nonessential or redundant details.
Instead, add some interesting details that will further enhance your press release. This might be the prime place to explain some of the creative background of the project or announcement.
You might also use your last paragraph to describe the future significance of your news for your company or the industry as a whole.
Make it interesting, but keep it brief. Go out on a high note.
8. Include a Clear Call-to-Action
Don’t let your press release just hang in the air. Wrap it up with a clear call-to-action that guides the journalist or blogger to take the next step.
Don’t overdo it. Only use one CTA per press release. For instance, if your press release is about a product launch, you could use:
Sign up now to receive news about product updates
Request a Demo (Supplies are Limited)
Your call to action needs an action word (i.e., sign up or view) that prompts the reader to take the next desired step. Use language that creates urgency, such as Today or Limited Supply. Decide what action you want your readers to take, and craft a CTA that will nudge them in that direction.
9. Reach Out to Specific Journalists
Resist the urge to send your press release to every journalist whose contact information you can find. Instead, approach your distribution methodically. Once you decide what publications you want to reach out to, do your research to find who is relevant to your industry.
Find out which bloggers and journalists your audience follows and reads. Read their past articles. Get to know them through their profiles. When you reach out, add a personal touch that sets you apart from the mountain of other press releases they receive.
10. Use Online Distribution Services to Give You a Leg Up
Press release distribution services can go a long way in getting the right eyes on your announcement. Here are a few PR tools that will help you to distribute your press release to the right people:
Keep in mind, however, that effective distribution services come with a pricetag. However, there are a range of price points. We generally advise clients to decide on a price point based on their releases' importance. The more newsworthy, the more it may pay to up your spend.
Many press release distribution services also offer powerful targeting options. Give your press release the extra reach it needs to land before industry-specific journalists and bloggers, or even those in specific media types (print, blog, etc.). Do your research before you tap into these precision targeting tools to make sure you reach the right people.
Whenever you're distributing a press release online, you also want to make sure that it is optimized for search engines. Choose a specific, long-tail keyword that direct extra traffic to your press release. You never know what journalists and bloggers might stumble upon your release just because you took this extra step.
Pro Tip: Did you get a mention in The New York Times? Or a trade publication? Wherever you were mentioned, don't let that be a dead-end! Post it to Facebook. Tweet about it on Twitter. In short, help that bit of limelight to live on, and give your credibility a helpful boost at the same time.
Now let's consider for a moment the important place that press releases hold in today's busy world, and why you need them as part of a strong PR strategy.
Why Press Releases Still Matter in Today’s Social World
Would you like to stand out as a company, and build relationships with journalists that you can use for years to come? Press releases may be just the ticket you’re looking for.
A press release is a vital component of any public relations strategy. Here is just a sampling of circumstances where a press release can amplify your message:
- New product launches
- Updates to existing products
- New partnership
- New office opening
- New team member/big-name hire
But how exactly does a press release benefit your company? Consider just a few ways:
- Increased Reach With professional distribution services, you’ll have access to more journalists, bloggers, prospects and influencers than you could reach on your own.
- Improved SEO With well-chosen keywords and SEO practices, your press release can build strong traffic to your website.
- Improve Public Perception Press releases can shape your brand image, and deliver consistent and factual messages that offset any negative publicity.
- A concise way of telling your story. There's a reason the press release has had such staying power. Done right, it quickly and effectively highlights what's new.
These kinds of results would boost any company's strategy. So let’s get down to how you can create a powerful press release that gets you all these benefits, and more.
Best Press Release Examples
Wondering how to do a press release? Here's an example of a release we issued for an actual client.
Press releases are alive and well in 2018 -- and when used correctly, can be a huge boon to your business. Make the most of each press release by applying these press release best practices.
Want even more powerful tips for PR success? Don't forget to get our latest PR checklist that will put you on the path to great PR.
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