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10 Tips for Writing Effective Press Releases

June 14th, 2007

writing-press-release.jpgOne method of promotion that is sometimes overlooked by Internet marketers is that of the simple press release. Through online distribution centers such as PRweb.com, it is possible to generate a significant amount of traffic and inbound links to your website by sending out a well-crafted press release. However, since most media outlets have some type of editorial process usually involving human editors at some level, it is important that your document is written according to professional journalistic guidelines so that it stands a good chance of actually being published. Here are 10 things to keep in mind when writing your “killer” copy:

1. Keep the tone of your content on a professional level. In other words, no abusive language, personal attacks, silly stunts, or anything else that would be generally regarded as unprofessional should appear in your final draft. You can use a certain amount of light humor if it seems appropriate for your genre, but if it does not look like you’re capable of communicating in a professional manner, your letter is unlikely to make it past the editor’s trash can.

2. Use the proper format. There is actually a certain format that press releases are supposed to follow according to generally accepted journalistic standards. Here’s the scoop:

Headline: Often called the “hed” in journalistic jargon, this should be written in a way that captures the editor’s attention and entices further reading.

Dateline: This indicates the name of the city from which the press release is being sent and the date of its publication.

Body: The standard convention is to begin with your most important points first, then move on to secondary information. You should aim to cover the five basic questions: who, what, where, when, and why.

Company Boilerplate: You may write a brief history of your company here, including any relevant products or services.

Contact Information: Provide basic information such as the name, address, phone number, and website URL that you want to use for receiving inquiries from the media and general public.

The End: In a press release, the end of the text is indicated by placing “###” at the end of the very last sentence.

3. Don’t be overly promotional. Remember that it’s supposed to be a press release, not a sales letter. You don’t need lots of puffed-up ad copy; a straightforward, plain English style will suffice.

4. Keep it short. Eliminate excess verbiage. Break up long sentences. Delete sentences that seem redundant. Include only important and necessary information. Ideally, put it all on one page.

5. Target your audience. You can tailor your message according to the specific category of your business. If your readers are primarily other Internet marketers, then it would make sense to provide information about how they can sell their products and services more effectively, as well as general money making strategies. But if you’re announcing the opening of a new (offline) bookstore, your audience may not be interested in “make money online” types of products.

6. Use a simple, visually pleasing layout. Stick to standard font types and sizes; too many unorthodox font styles in the same document may confuse the reader and detract from the message. It is also a good idea to use short paragraphs with a line of white space in between them for greater visual appeal.

7. State the problem, then provide a solution. This basic problem/solution format has worked for sales letters since the days of the first advertising agencies. It can work for press releases too, as long as you make sure that your copy doesn’t read like a blatant advertisement.

8. Don’t lie, exaggerate, or otherwise avoid the truth. If your press release gets published and is read by a significant number of people, it will be their first impression of you and your company for many of them. While it may be tempting to twist the facts, inflate your numbers, and make your products look better than they actually are, most professional journalists will see through this. If the information that you provide is exposed as being inaccurate, you can lose your chance at making a good first impression.

9. Clean up any spelling or grammatical errors before sending it out. This seems obvious, but I continue to be amazed at how many people pay little or no attention to proofreading their writing before publishing it on the Internet. Writing clean copy is especially important for press releases because you are trying to get it read by as many people as possible.

10. When in doubt, outsource it. If you do not know how to write very well or simply want to save some time, you can always hire a professional copywriter to take care of these kinds of tasks. Meanwhile, if you want to get a good idea of how to write press releases yourself, you can read ones that have already been published at sites like prweb.com or other major news outlets, as this can help you get into the right frame of mind.

Related article: Press Release Tip: Using Webwire.com

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