Free publicity? Is that really possible? With a well-crafted press release, it is indeed. But, with changes in communications technology, crafting and distributing a press release is different than just a few years ago.
By definition, a press release was created as a way to seek coverage by the “press,” usually the local newspaper, related to an event or announcement that the community would be interested in and would bring attention to the company or organization. The ‘old rule’ of thumb in writing a release was to assume the role of a newspaper journalist and write the release in a way it could be published as a newspaper article, with virtually no changes.
But, today’s press releases can be distributed to a much broader audience, including bloggers, web page owners, online newswires, as well as local press. Releases also can be posted on the website of the business, shared via customer databases/emails, other social media sites, and used as part of advertising. With these broader audiences, content and format must reflect today’s world. The release can increase public awareness of the company and its brand, new products, or a new focus, new hires, and awards and should drive customers to the business and increase sales. Search engine optimization (SEO) is considered up front, recognizing the keywords that readers will be searching for online.
Formatting includes many of the time-honored components while addressing today’s market:
- Logo, usually at the top of the page. This should be in the current format, high resolution, so that it can be accessed by the reader.
- Release date, which can be :FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
- Contact information, including phone numbers (that will be answered) and an appropriate email address.
- Headline. Perhaps the most important component, this should be brief, clear, and attention-grabbing. A sub-headline, or summary sentence, can be added, providing additional detail.
- Body. Today’s press releases should be between 300 and 800 words, in just three or four paragraphs. This is where the actual story being told is covered, where the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” are covered. Quotes are often included in this section and should be from a person who matters to the reader. The lead sentence should get the reader’s attention, and should still recognize that the release is an official statement from the business.
- Boilerplate. Often overlooked, this is where the organization/business itself is described. Links to the website and social media should be included.
- Contact information. A good press release results in follow-up from the reader, so providing the right contact or contacts is critical. The contact must be accessible and knowledgeable about the content. A name, title, phone and email address are minimal.
- Link: Provide a link to the online version of the release, making it easier to access.
- Finish: The longstanding method for indicating the release is complete this:
In addition to the above components, press releases today can include additional items that capture the audience. Photos and video links are commonly attached to releases. Hyperlinks can help drive readers to appropriate websites, especially the business site. Worth repeating, keywords should be identified and should be included in the headline and the body of the release, knowing that SEO matters.