WHAT IS A PRESS RELEASE?
According to Wikipedia, a press release, which can also be called a news release, media release, press statement or video release, “is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news
According to Wikipedia, a press release, which can also be called a news release, media release, press statement or video release, “is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something ostensibly newsworthy.” The “news media” makes your news available to the public. It includes online sources, such as online sites and blogs; print media, such as newspapers and magazines; and broadcast media, such as radio and television.
It seems that press releases have always existed, but they actually originated in the early 20th century when Ivy Lee issued a statement on behalf of the Pennsyl-vania Railroad to report on a train crash. His “press release” was appreciated so much that people came to understand the value of writing and distributing news in a timely fashion. Today literally thousands of press releases are issued every day.
WHEN SHOULD YOU ISSUE A PRESS RELEASE?
If you work for a public company, press releases are required for certain corporate events, such as reporting financial results, announcing corporate appointments and other events. If you work for a privately-held company, you have more discre-tion about when to issue press releases. The most important factor in considering whether to issue a press release or not is to ask the question: “Is this information newsworthy?”
A new product is newsworthy. An update to an existing product is most likely not newsworthy, unless it includes noticeable new features. A partnership is inter-esting. An update to your website is not newsworthy. Yes, it took a major effort for your company to complete this task, but really, no one but your team cares.
WHAT RESULTS CAN YOU EXPECT?
When you decide to create a press release, you probably have some results in mind. In the following section we touch on “optimizing” press releases, which refers to placing appropriate keywords in strategic spots in the press release. If optimized correctly, your press release will most likely achieve at least some of the results you intended. When you search for your keywords in Google News, Yahoo! News and Bing News, your press release will appear at the top of their results for at least the first day, maybe longer. Your press release will be picked up by many online sites and perhaps some print media.
We will discuss later in this document how you distribute your release for visibility and how to measure results in an analytical way.
Press Release Format
Regardless of the type and content of a press release, they all have a very similar format. They all have a headline, some have a subhead, and they all have content.
Depending on the type of press release, the content will vary but, in most cases, will contain descriptive text, a quote or two, three or four links, a boilerplate and contact information.
How long or how many words should a press release be? There is no set answer to that. If you have a compelling message and it is fairly lengthy and you feel you can keep the reader interested, then it can be 500 or more words. If you have a rather basic message to get across and just need to get the news out, then it can be under 500 words. There is no set length for a press release. One thing to remember is
Before we take a look at each component of a press release, let’s consider key-words. The reason you distribute a press release is so the news search engines will find it. The news search engines, Google News, Yahoo! News and Bing News, find it by searching for keywords. Using the appropriate keywords in your release is very important. You have probably heard the phrases “optimizing a press release” or “SEO for press releases.” This refers to the placement of the appropriate keywords in your press release.
The headline of your release can be between 2 and 22 words and requires a mini-mum of 10 characters. Ideally you want the headline to be about 60 characters, as that is the length the news search engines will display online.
The headline should contain the words for which you want the release to be found, such as the company name, the new product name, a person’s name or a category of audience you are trying to reach. It is generally a condensation of the first para-graph content, so some press release writers prefer to write the first paragraph and then write the headline.
The number of words in the subhead, if you choose to have a subhead, is the same as the headline” between 2 and 22 words, ideally around 60 characters.
The subhead gives you the opportunity to be more specific about what you are announcing. It also gives you the opportunity to include more related keywords, so the release can be found for even more keywords.
The first paragraph should contain the information about your announcement in a very succinct manner. There is space to explain the details in the following paragraph, so include the most important elements of your announcement in the initial paragraph. Often times you will want to include a link in your first paragraph, in case people only read the first paragraph.
Since the news search engines examine the first 100 words of a press release, the typical length of a first paragraph, very closely, it is a good idea to have your most important keywords in the first paragraph. If yours is a public company, you will almost always include the stock symbol when you first mention the company, such as “NYSE: ticker symbol” and “Nasdaq: ticker symbol.”
While most of the press release is quite factual, quotes act as a way to insert an opinion into the press release. Quotes typically appear in the second or third paragraphs, but there is no set place for them. As you will see in the following examples, quotes are used with many different intents. For example, in a cor-porate appointment press release, the quote is used to praise the person being appointed. A second quote in that same release is made by the appointee to say how pleased he is to have been chosen. In a financial results announcement, a quote can be used to position the results as the company would like the financial community to view them.
Inserting links into your press release can drive traffic to a specific page on your website. This page is what we call “a landing page.” A landing page can be a page where you capture the visitor’s relevant information for a webinar or as a prospect, or it can be where you give the visitor more information about your new product.
A link in a press release is also important for news search engines. The number of external links, that is the links that come from outside your website, is one of the factors search engines consider in ranking. If you include a link or links, a journalist or blogger may pick up your press release and when people click on the link from that journalist or blogger’s site, it becomes an external link to your site and valuable in search engine ranking.
How many links should you include in your press release? Not an excessive number or the search engines will consider your press release to be spam. A good rule of thumb is one link per hundred words.
Every company has a paragraph or two that describes what they do, what their products or services are and for whom they are intended. This is called a boilerplate. Almost all press releases contain a boilerplate at the very end – after the content and before the contacts. It is a good idea to include a link to your company’s website in the boilerplate so people know how to find additional information.
At the very end of the boilerplate, some companies include links to their Face-book, Twitter and LinkedIn. This is optional but a good opportunity to get social media visibility.
A press release requires contact information. The contact person generally depends on the nature of the press release. If it is a financial results press release, the CFO is usually listed as a contact. In most cases, it is the PR person who is listed and they then filter requests to the appropriate person in the company.
Contact information should include name, phone number and email. It can also include the person’s title and, if the contact is external to the company, the ex-ternal company name.
Press Release Distribution
WHY DISTRIBUTION IS NECESSARY
Since the goal of the press release is to garner visibility for your newsworthy con-tent, you will need to use a wire distribution service to get the word out. Google News, Yahoo! News and Bing News do not crawl the billions of existing websites to find press releases nor do they have the mechanism in place to manually add the thousands of press releases issued every day. They find press releases by crawling news sources, which are the press releases put online by the wire distribution ser-vices. If you want your release to be found, you must use a wire distribution service.