Write and Distribute Great Press Releases¹
In the "old days" press releases were only read by editors at traditional media outlets; today you can reach your customers directly. Potential customers can read your press releases using search engines, on industry websites, on consumer websites, and even on your company website. As a result, writing a press release means communicating directly with your audience instead of simply trying to attract the interest of an editor or reporter.
So let's start with the basic components of an effective press release strategy:
- Create press releases on a regular basis, not just when you have major news to share.
- Write with potential buyers in mind; try to appeal to their needs and interests.
- Use keywords that are appropriate for your business so search engines will find you.
- Create a call to action within the press release: a promotional offer, free information available on your website, new maintenance tips, etc.
- Link to your website so web readers will be able to visit your site easily.
- Distribute your press release to a variety of online sources so as many people as possible can view your message.
Since you can communicate directly with customers, focus on their needs. Provide potential customers with the information they need to find your company online, and have a reason to find you online. What kind of information can you share?
- New ways to solve common problems.
- New products or product features.
- Awards or public recognition.
- New customers landed.
- New markets entered, new locations established, new employees added to the team.
Again, don't think about press releases under the old premise of hoping to attract an editor or reporter. A good press release informs current or potential customers and helps them find you; an announcement sharing the news that you just landed a major new customer may cause other potential customers to check you out. The same is true if you win an industry award; while your local newspaper may not be interested, customers may be.
Once you decide what you want to communicate, how can you write a great press release?
- Use a standard format. Most press releases follow a consistent format. Check out a press release online and you'll notice contact information appears at the top along with the date of the release. Then write a catchy title for the release, focusing on the benefits of reading the release. In the first paragraph, summarize the event or news you wish to share. In subsequent paragraphs, expand on that summary. Focus on the five "Ws" of journalism: Answer the questions who, what, when, where, and why.
- Focus on benefits. News is news; the best press releases include news readers can use. If you are launching a new product, who will that product benefit? How will it make the lives of your customers better? What problem will it solve? If your company won an award, what does that award represent to your customers? Outstanding service? Long-lasting products? Focus not just on what you want to share but why it is important to your readers and how they will benefit from the knowledge they gain.
- Include quotes. At a minimum include one or two quotes from company representatives, and if appropriate from customers or other parties relevant to the release. If you plan to participate in a charitable event, include a quote from the event organizer explaining the importance of the charity or showing how your company will help make a real difference. If you land a major customer, let that customer briefly explain why they chose your company; most will be happy to do so since they will receive publicity from your press release.
- Stay short and to the point. Most press releases are no longer than one page; some are only two or three paragraphs long. Revise your release until it is clear, concise, and direct.
- Use the right keywords. Remember, many customers will find your release as the result of a web search so make it easy for them! Use the same keywords (when appropriate) in your press release that you use on your website. Make sure you focus on terms your customers use; while you may sell "flatware," many of your customers may search using the keyword "silverware."
- Link to your site. Make sure readers can find you. Don't just include contact information; provide direct links to your website.
Once your press release is ready, it's time for distribution. The best way to reach the greatest number of potential readers is to distribute using several sources. For example, if you hope to attract the interest of a particular newspaper, by all means send your press release to the appropriate editor. Don't stop there: post the release on your website, and send it to at least one of the online news release services. That way other trade and industry sites might find and post your release, too, plus the search engines can more easily find you.
Here are a few of the largest news release distribution services:
- PR Web: www.prweb.com
- PR Newswire: www.prnewswire.com
- Marketwire: www.marketwire.com
- Business Wire: www.businesswire.com
- Prime Newswire: www.primenewswire.com
Most online news services require a subscription or a per-release fee. Some will limit your release to a geographic area, but most include distribution to sites like Google News on a worldwide basis. Since you want the most potential readers and customers as possible, make sure you post your releases to a service that is included on major online news sites.
No matter what, post the release to your own website. Many online news sites do not keep archives of old press releases; your release may only be "live" for a few months. Maintaining the release on your site ensures search engines can always find your content. Why create something that will disappear in a few months?