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Back to PR Basics: The Press Release

The press release in public relations is a titan, a bulwark, a cornerstone—even today, in the digital age. The release still has a crucial role to play, and not only for SEO purposes.

It’s a way to keep your brand top of mind and to share the stories and announcements that will delight both the media and your audience. With a well-crafted, strategic release, you can see press coverage as well as community engagement.

Success doesn’t demand running to the latest tech and tools, although they play a part in getting the message out there. Success starts with basics. Let’s review them, then add a few new ones that have arisen due to digital transformation.

Headlines matter.

Press-Release-Robot

Headlines have always mattered, and they matter more today, thanks to SEO and social. Google crawls, maybe, 70 characters of a headline. Use them wisely!

Social—think: Twitter—truncates messages. Plus, any social feed moves so fast that the headline has to capture attention immediately. “Press Release: XYZ” won’t do the trick. Also remember that Google is seeking quality content, so the “Press Release” title holds little sway, if any, with the Googlebots.

Use subheadings.

Google doesn’t guarantee crawling subheadings, but that doesn’t mean they’re a waste of time or space. Use subheadings to add context to the title. Another option is to turn the subheading into a short, succinct summary—a press release in miniature, if you will.

Get to the point immediately.

In traditional writing, you can lay out expectations in the introductory paragraph. Not so with the press release; its introductory paragraph has to say all there is to say out of the gate.

Focus on answering the “who, what, when, where, why and how” in the paragraph. Pay special attention to the “why” and “what;” they’re the reasons people will or will not read your release. Why should people care about this story? What will they get out of knowing more about a product, service, event or other news about your brand?

Want to brush up on more basics of public relations? Click here to view our free “PR Starter Kit!”

Build on the lede.

Although the introductory paragraph includes a lot of information, it acts primarily as the lede. The body copy fleshes it out with additional details. Also use two or three quotes, making sure they don’t restate something already said. The press wants unique clips and blurbs, not restatements of facts already known.

Share the brand story.

The conclusion is the place to wrap things up and reiterate the “why.” It’s also the spot to share your brand’s biography, i.e., who the brand is and what it does.

Remember the contact information.

Press-Release-Tweet

The logic goes like this: if you want to be contacted, you have to share contact information. Ensure it’s up to date and include social media handles. You never know where you might get a nibble from the press.

Stand out from the crowd.

A strong headline only goes so far. If you want to stand out and be “the signal in the noise,” emit a strong signal. Use photos and videos. Let them tell parts of the story that can’t be covered in a basic press release. Add other content as needed, like infographics, product descriptions or audio files from a podcast.

Promote your content.

You don’t necessarily want to promote the release itself, but you can point to the supplementary content to build interest and engagement. In that way, the press release becomes a sort of temporary hub.

Once it’s old news, move it to a larger and more permanent one: a digital newsroom. The newsroom acts as a cache and gives content greater longevity, both in terms of visits and use. Again, direct the media here via email and social. They won’t simply appear if they don’t even know it exists.

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Images: Joi Ito, Pen Waggener, (Creative Commons)

About Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is the director of editorial services at Tenacity5 Media. When she isn’t researching, writing, and editing blog posts and white papers, she writes poetry and essays, draws her favorite Write Right character, and plans what art form to study next. She’s based in Austin, Texas and can be found on Twitter @erinmfeldman.

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