Every marketing and public relations specialist needs to master the art of writing a press release. While some believe the press release is no longer relevant, they continue to be an integral part of any marketing strategy.
Journalists continue to count on press releases for relevant news topics and story ideas. Through news distribution services, the public has immediate access to an organization’s news announcements. The rise of social media provides organizations free exposure through the sharing of content. Now, it is more important than ever that marketers understand the nuance of crafting an informative and engaging press release that will get noticed.
Writing a quality press release that the media picks up and the public engages with is a specialized and acquired skill. One we can help you acquire with our best tips for writing a press release!
1. Start with a Relevant, Newsworthy Topic
For anyone to pay attention to your press release, it needs to have a news angle. Before you start writing, ask yourself:
- Why will the audience care about this story?
- Is this story relevant to my target audience?
It’s important to remember that a press release is an official statement provided to the media as well as current and potential customers. Therefore, you need to focus on writing about a relevant and newsworthy topic.
Even in the digital age, the media still counts on press releases for pulling story ideas. But, now more than ever, they’re short on time and need content that is clear and concise. Always give the why in the first sentence. Then, follow closely behind with the who, what, when, and where.
Making sure to draw attention to why the news is essential increases your chance of media pick-up. Most of the time, the media ignores your press release because you buried the lede.
A few go-to press release topics:
- Product launch
- Hiring new executive
- Receive an award
- Crisis management
As you consider these common press release topics, also consider unique approaches to them that will make them more relevant and newsworthy to your audience.
2. Grab Them with a Good Headline
Your press release starts with the headline. Think of it as you would the first impression with a client or your first date. To stand out, it needs to be catchy as well as informative. Be clear about why your press release is important and relevant to your audience.
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the entire piece. Keep it short and accurate. Google has increased its character limit to 70-71 characters. So, aim for 70 characters, including spaces. Make sure the essential information is in the headline, and be sure to include your primary keyword. You can always add a subhead to include additional, relevant information and keywords.
Headline writing tips:
- Include numbers: People respond to numbers in headlines. Several studies show headlines with numbers generate 73% more social shares and engagement.
- Action Words: Using verbs in your headline gives a sense of urgency and grabs the attention of readers.
- Use interesting adjectives: Adjectives provide descriptors that give your headline a boost to make them attractive to your audience.
- Keep it accurate: Including numbers and attention-grabbing language only works if the headline accurately describes your press release. Writing a misleading headline will ensure readers lose trust and avoid your content in the future.
3. Keep it short
With an ever-intensifying news cycle that runs 24/7 across media platforms, audiences want short, clear, and concise content.
A press release should give just enough information to pique the reader’s attention and make them want to find out more. Keep it to one page, two max. Get to the point and stay on point throughout the release. You need to provide all the relevant information a journalist needs to write their story, without wasting time repeating yourself.
Including links is an excellent way to direct journalists and readers to further information. This will also increase search page rankings for your website when a reader visits a link you included in your press release. Just don’t overdo it, and don’t repeat links. Try to keep it to one to three unique links, or one link per 100 words.
4. Call to Action
What is the purpose of your press release? What action do you want the reader to take? A strong call-to-action lets your audience know what they need to do next.
The majority of readers will not read your whole press release, so keep your CTA high in the text. Think somewhere between the first and third paragraphs. Don’t make the mistake of throwing a for more information line at the end and think that will get anyone to visit your website or click-to-buy.
For a CTA to be effective, it needs to:
- Stand out: The CTA should standalone, to draw attention from the rest of your text.
- Formatting: Use bold and italics to draw attention to the CTA.
- Include a link: Use the full URL, so your audience knows where they’re going. Keep the hyperlinks for the rest of the text.
And remember, a hyperlink in the middle of a sentence is not a CTA.
5. Include Quotes
A quote can provide an added sense of authority to your press release. Including a quote from a senior executive or industry expert shows your audience and search engines that you are a reliable and knowledgeable source for a given topic.
Additionally, journalists continue to go to press releases for quotes. Most will pull the quote directly from your release to use in their article. You want to make sure to use natural language. Read it out loud to ensure it sounds like something a real person would say. And keep it short. Again, you want it to sound natural, so something four or more sentences is too long.
Wondering who you can reach out to for a quote? Here are a few trusted options:
- Senior-level executives
- Industry expert
6. Show Don’t Tell — Show with Multimedia:
It’s the number one rule in storytelling; show don’t tell. A great way to show why your press release matters is to include multimedia. Multimedia can enhance your story by providing your audience with additional information, clarification, and a visual reference.
Press releases that include a visual element have been shown to get 3x more views. Consider adding a video to your press release for your audience to engage with via social media.
Remember, for multimedia to be effective, you need to make sure it is relevant to the content and of high-quality. Journalists will not use- and audiences will not share- blurry images or videos with broken sound.
Types of multimedia you can use:
- Videos: Audiences engage the most with videos, so keep them relevant, and short (60 seconds to 2 minutes maximum).
- Photos: The go-to multimedia for most press releases, photos can be used for product launches, personnel announcements, new openings and awards.
- Infographics: Visually clarify research and more complex information with an infographic.
- PDFs: Link to longer-form content, like a whitepaper or eBook, with a PDF.
7. Don’t Forget About SEO
SEO and Google algorithm updates have played a large part in how marketers and public relations specialists write content and press releases. Over the years, we have moved from keyword and link overloading to a focus on natural language and formatting.
Google’s most recent update, BERT, helps computers understand natural language a bit more like humans. BERT allows Google to understand the nuance of common words like “to," conceptualize word meaning better, and recognize misspellings in search queries.
With even more focus placed on using natural language in content, properly formatting your release will help Google and other search engines crawl, index, and rank your press release higher in search results.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short (3 to 4 sentences).
- Utilize bullet and number lists to break up information and data.
- Keep bolding and italics for critical information.
Writing a press release can seem deceptively simple. It’s short and can come off as formulaic, but that’s what can make it challenging to write. So, be patient. Focus on your audience’s wants and needs, and make sure to write how humans speak. It may take a few tries, but practice can bring great results.
About Maureen Beard
Maureen Beard is a Senior Content Specialist with Cision PR Newswire. She works with PR professionals to create relevant and engaging multimedia-rich press releases. With over a decade of content marketing experience, she counsels on SEO and content writing best practices.
Always seeking opportunities to travel and explore new cultures and destinations, Maureen has contributed articles to Thrive Global and World Nomads.