Have you ever written a release that just didn’t perform as well as you had hoped? You had great content, great links, and one heck of a great angle, but you only received handful of click-throughs to your website?
It was probably not your content that resulted in a lackluster performance, but the formatting.
I get a lot of requests from PR practitioners for a checklist or a tip sheet with best practices for press release formatting. That’s a tall order, because there are so many differences between industries–product announcements, corporate releases, and content marketing campaigns all require different touches. However, there are some general tips that will help get your press release the best online visibility:
- Write a tweetable headline. Keep it under 140 characters, with the most important information in first 65 characters. You can include more information in the subhead, which will be fully indexed by Google and other search engines.
- Avoid using jargon, and save company descriptions for the boilerplate. Launch right in with the main purpose of the release. It is important to hook readers early, and jargon does not a compelling lede make.
- Include a call to action in the first or second paragraph. Studies have shown that the best place for engagement for a call to action is below the first paragraph in a stand-alone line, but including this as close to the top of your content is going to provide the best visibility.
- The call to action needs to be a natural link, not anchor text. This will help keep that link intact when your release is distributed and posted online.
- Include links, but not too many. It’s important to limit to no more than 3 links for a single client release. If it is a joint release with another company, 4 total links will suffice. More than 4, and your visibility will suffer.
- Use each unique link only once. You can link to multiple pages, but repeated use of a link to the same website will hurt your SEO. Anchor text will not fool the search engines–you will still be flagged.
- Use bulleted lists to help readers easily find and digest your content. These lists also help draw the eye to the most important information.
- Do not overuse keywords. Be particularly careful when a company name is integrated into a product name. That will be caught by search engines, and you could be flagged as low quality content.
- Use bold sparingly throughout the release to highlight key phrases, and to draw the eye through your content.
- Incorporate quotes. A good quote can extend the life of your message. You can bold the name and title of any executives to draw attention to the presence of quotes.
Press release writing can seem complicated, and there are peculiarities that change best practices depending on your industry. This list is a good start on your way to creating well-optimized content. There are more things you can do to increase your online visibility, depending on the industry you are in, and the nature of your release. PR Newswire can assist you with any questions you may have. Let us know how we can help.
Author Colleen Pizarev has years of experience in international communications and assists PR Newswire clients with their global strategies.
10 Comments on Blog Post Title
You didn’t mention the most important aspect. At the top of the press release, PROVIDE A CONTACT(S) THAT CAN BE REACHED 24/7 – If I as a reporter need to get in touch with someone regarding the press release, a living body should be there to immediately respond by email or answer the damn phone LIVE. I recently received a news release with no less than FIVE contacts, with phone numbers and emails. Every phone call was answered by a voicemail, and two people didn’t return my call for a WEEK! Every email I sent went unanswered for DAYS. So if you’re wondering why no one covered your event, promoted your product or told your story, it’s because YOU or your colleagues or spokespeople didn’t bother to make anyone available.
Great bullet points – in fact, I find I use some of these tips even in the emails I send! Would love to hear more about the use of quotes, as I’ve heard mixed reviews about how, if and when journalists actually use / want them.
“It is important to hook readers early, and jargon does not a compelling lede make.” Huh?
Hello Dave – you make a great point. Several great points, in fact. When sending the press release as an attachment directly to journalists, it is imperative to have the contact information at the top – and then be available for a day or two after the release runs. In fact, I always recommend having the “if you are a reporter on deadline, please contact…..” on both voicemail and email OOO. That way journalists like yourself are taken care of as soon as possible. When sending via the wire, formatting requires that to be lower down, so I didn’t have it on this particular list, but now I’m thinking I should have done a Top Twenty. You gave me a great idea for another blog post. Thank you!
Hello Brian – Quotes can work very well, as long as you’re willing to be patient. Outside the US, they are used on a regular basis, as contacting the company for interviews, etc. can be problematic. Good, usable quotes on international releases are incredibly important. Within the US they are seeing a comeback as many companies are finding well-written quotes popping up as sidebar quotes or integrated into articles and blog posts not only relating to the release, but about a particular industry topic, or even about a competitor, weeks or months after the press release runs. Every journalist I know keeps a file of quotes they want to use at some point. Key is getting your quote into that file. One of the biggest problems with quotes not being used is because they’re buried in the rest of the prose on a press release. Making them stand out and be noticed will increase your chance of having it pop up again one day.
Hello Bob – A “lede” is the introductory section of a news story that is intended to entice the reader to read the full story, and an alliteration to “lead”. My point here is many releases start out with “XYZ Corp, a leading global provider of (insert industry and internal company jargon here..) as the first sentence of a press release not only can reduce your visibility for search, but can turn away potential readers. That sentence really belongs in the boilerplate. Starting your press release with a great sentence about why this announcement is so important, building off the headline and subhead increases your engagement substantially. Of course, there may be legal or internal policy reasons why you have to keep that initial sentence in there and move your lead (or lede) to the second sentence, but for the vast majority of releases clients send me to review, it is not only unnecessary, but can be counter-productive. The current trend is moving away from that repeating first sentence and it is a great best practice. I hope this answers your question. if not, please clarify, and I’ll be happy to address whatever is of interest to you.
Part of the difficulty writing shorter, pithier headlines as advised here and also here (http://www.prnewswire.com/blog/press-release-tips-writing-headlines-with-impact-12247.html) is that PRN practically demands the name of the issuing organization be in the headline. Not only does this eat up characters, it lends itself to boringer headlines. I’m hoping to see another trend of PRN becoming more flexible about this. I am willing to compromise by using it in the subhead, but there are times when that’s not ideal either.
Hi Colleen – I am familiar with what a lede is. Your last sentence in “Avoid using jargon” does not make any sense. Try reading it again. Perhaps your editors screwed it up?
Hello Kezia – PR Newswire does require attribution in the press release, but we do not require the company name to be in the headline. We are very flexible in that. In fact, many of the releases that run on our wire do not have company names in the headline or subhead. That said, there are times when it is unavoidable for legal reasons, or for political/public interest releases, but that is on a case by case basis. Your PR Newswire Account Director can give you some counsel on that, as well as putting you in touch with one of our experts to help you craft a headline that will work and will pass muster in our editorial process. We’re here to help you!
Hi Bob – You are correct. Exuberant editing. 🙂