Press releases can be a very effective way to share news about your company with the world regarding your latest and greatest accomplishments, but what most businesses fail to ask themselves is this:
Why would anyone else care about this?
It seems like a simple, straight forward question to ask but we’re often mired in a totally subjective point of view. OF COURSE, you’re the greatest and your new product is world-changing, or your new employee is (that dreaded buzzword) world-class…but…really? …really?
To save you (and your staff) from a PR misadventure, we’re here to talk about what makes a good press release, what doesn’t, and how to avoid a very public fail.
A Press Release Primer
Whether you’ve done it before and need a refresher, or you’re new to the whole press release thing and need a little help, this section will give you the basics of what a press release is, what it contains, and what it should look like.
First things first: What IS a press release?
A press release is an official announcement sent to the news media. This can be done directly to publishers with which you already have a relationship or through a wire service. This is often not free, so be sure to do some research and be prepared to spend some budget on getting it out!
SO, if you have a new product, a new CEO, merging with another business, or doing something truly noteworthy, this is the thing you need to get that news out into the great wide world.
Secondly: What’s IN a press release?
Details, quotes, links, and pictures/video. We’ll cover some more best practices later BUT it’s important to know the general structure of a press release. Let’s use this excellent HubSpot example:
- A headline. You want something catchy and irresistible. You want it to intrigue people enough to read on but not err on the side of CTA (call to action).
- Body copy. It should begin with your company’s location (for example, ours would start “Austin, TX”). Be sure to put your company’s name as close to the beginning of the opening sentence as you can.
- Quotes and quotables. Make sure you give the press something to quote that’s smart, interesting, and exciting. They’ll be more likely to pick up your story if you have real things to say.
- Keep it tight all the way through. You’ll be tempted to be overly clever or even market-y but resist! Try to keep the fluff out and save your amusing anecdotes for your blog. Remember that the people reading this are scanning it to see if it’s worth a mention so make it easy for them to find the real news.
- The boilerplate. A boilerplate is a unit of content that can be used over and over again without changing it. It usually contains the core details of your company.
- Press contact. There is no #6 in HubSpot’s example but their press contact is at the top of the page. This is a person in your company that press can reach out to for further clarification or comments. We usually put ours at the bottom and we commonly see that across the board but put it where you think it will get the best visibility!
Thirdly: What should it look like?
While the example HubSpot gave has all of the TEXT elements, there were a few key pieces missing! Graphics. You usually have the option to attach or embed graphics into your release, so the must-have is your company’s logo!
According to Newswire Next, 68% of the top most-viewed press releases include multimedia. An image can increase your views by 1.4x and a video can result in 2.8x increase in views!
SO, make sure you’re not just telling, make sure you’re showing.
Ok, so now we know the whats. Let’s look at the “oh no, don’t do thats.”
3 Common Press Release Mistakes
Have your press releases mostly gone unnoticed? Have they been retweeted here and there but often forgotten almost right away? The first thing you should do when attempting to improve your press releases is to figure out what’s going wrong.
Here are 3 common mistakes we’ve seen:
- Your title is boring. The title of your press release is kind of like the cover of a book. If the cover doesn’t draw the eye, nobody is going to read it. If your title is uninteresting or doesn’t convey what the press release is about, it’s unlikely that the press release will be read. Your title should be catchy, informative, short, and to the point.
Hot Tip: Be sure to avoid using buzzwords (like “state-of-the-art,” “world-class,” or “exclusive”) as these just make your press releases sound like spam.
- Your press release is an ad. Press releases are not advertisements, but unfortunately, many businesses forget this. You shouldn’t be trying to market your products or services, even if the press release is for an upcoming product launch. Instead, your press release should read like a news story. If it comes off as over promotional, you’re doing it wrong.
Hot Tip: Be sure to have a couple of people from other departments read over the press release and get their feedback. It can be hard to take the marketing OUT of marketing, so another department might help give you more objective feedback.
- Your press release isn’t newsworthy. Don’t send out press releases for every little thing. Focus only on stories that are actually newsworthy. For example, if your company recently formed a major partnership with another business or you’ve hired a new CEO, then this is likely worthy of a press release. However, non-executive-level hires or discount sale promotions are not.
Hot Tip: Take a look at some of the press releases you’ve sent out in the past. What do the high-performers have in common? Is it a topic, a style, or a specific vertical? This can help you identify what works and what doesn’t.
Press Release Best Practices
Now that we’ve gone over the not-so-good, what can you do to elevate your press release? The following are a few tips that will help you craft a press release that attracts attention, incites curiosity, and generates excitement for your brand:
- Get to the point. Avoid filler and make sure that the main message of your press release is addressed in the first few sentences. If readers don’t know what you’re getting at in the first paragraph, they may not read on. The rest of your press release should support the message you’ve delivered in the very beginning.
- Use quotes. Relevant quotes from people within your company help add a human element to your copy and can provide a great source of information that supports your message. Quotes are also useful in that they can be pulled from your press release for additional write-ups by reporters.
- Keep it short. Ideally, your press report should be around a page long. It should be no more than two pages at the absolute max. This ensures that there’s no filler and makes it easy to read quickly.
- Provide links. Add links to your site where readers can find more information about the subject. This makes it easy for reporters to do additional research as well. HOWEVER, try to make sure your links are “no-follow” as Google is getting mighty specific about this. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to Google’s suggestions.
Sending out press releases can be a great way to generate interest in your brand; however, if you’re not doing it right, your press releases could come off as a cheap attempt to advertise your company, which is the last thing you’ll want. Use these tips to follow press release best practices and to avoid making common press release mistakes.
Did we leave anything out? Be sure to let is know!