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Understanding Today’s Media: Insights from Top Journalists

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3 Must-Have Elements for Your Next Press Release

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As an industry professional with over two decades of experience in content distribution and best practices, I often get asked, “What’s the right template for a press release?” The truth is, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. Instead of focusing on following a template, you are better served by ensuring your press release has all the necessary elements in place.

The question PR professionals should be asking instead is, “Why does this news matter?” Regardless of who your target audience is, every press release you send out needs to answer this essential question. The answer will be the starting point from which you can then craft a piece of engaging content that then fulfills the goal of, “Did we get the ROI we intended to get from this PR?” 

To achieve this there are a few key elements you need to focus on when crafting your message: 

#1: A compelling headline that drives your audience to keep reading

After reading your headline, no one should have to wonder, “Why does this news matter?” In addition to answering the “So what?” question right off the top, your headline should also include a positive action verb relaying the key messaging within the first 60 characters (for SEO purposes, you should always strive to keep your headline to 100 characters or less). A recent press release from Boeing and Alaska Airlines provides a great example.

When creating a piece of evergreen content or thought leadership, lead with the story – not the brand (much like Lumen Technologies did for a recent release). The unbranded headline is a great content marketing approach.

Finally, use your subhead to provide additional context. Include key data points, event dates, etc. to further entice your audience to continue this content journey with your story.

#2: A clear and concise call to action (CTA)

What do you want your audience to do next after engaging with your content? Make it clear by including a strong CTA that compels your audience – be it media, investors or consumers – to take that next step (whether it’s following you on social media, signing up for an event, going to a website to learn more, etc.). Make sure your CTA stands out by:

  • Placing it “above the fold” or early in the body so the reader sees it early.
  • Thinking outside the tired “Click here” text: Be descriptive and include a strong action verb.
  • Bolding the text and making it a stand-alone paragraph.

#3: A scan-fighting format

In addition to what the audience is reading, PR pros should take into account how their audience is reading. Research tells us that many people scan online content in an F-shaped format (which I discuss this in my recent blog post, The 5 Most Impressive Press Releases from June: Combatting the Quick Scan). When creating your press release, you should format it in a way that entices the reader to engage with it, rather than just giving it a quick scan.

Some formatting best practices for keeping readers engaged include:

Bonus points

If you want good engagement from journalists, other key elements include: 

  • Media contact information (be sure the media contact is readily available for 5+ days after your press release is distributed);
  • Relevant and meaningful (and short!) executive quotes (for a good example, see this recent announcement from Twitter);
  • Natural language to engage your audience in a more storytelling manner (and follow Google quality content best practices); and
  • Language free of industry jargon to attract as broad an audience as possible.
Glenn Frates

Glenn Frates is Regional Vice President of U.S. Distribution at Cision. Glenn’s 20+ years experience in content distribution and best practices, global marketing strategies and large-scale operations management has provided him a broad perspective on what does and doesn’t work well in the Marketing/PR arena.