“Extra, extra, read all about it!” The newsies would shout their messages from street corners into the noisy crowds who gathered to learn about the latest stories and scandals. As the patrons scrambled for their coins to pay for their papers, the greatest news of the day was being read simultaneously by others on the streets. Most breaking news was shared in the morning or evening papers, but on rare occasions of urgent information, a special edition paper would be printed. Newspapers were the only way for most people to know what was going on in the world. This could very well be considered the earliest press release.
Disseminating Urgent Information in the Modern World
While there are no longer newsies on the street corners yelling out the latest news, there are still press releases, but getting yours to be noticed can be a challenge. Even if you have written a stellar piece on the latest news, how can you ensure others will read it and benefit from it? It’s more than just an information article or SEO copy; a press release will alert the public to something important and possibly life changing. If you are tasked with writing a great press release, here are some things to keep in mind while you’re writing and editing:
- Start off strong. The first 1-2 lines should clearly state the news with attention grabbing details. Some of the best headlines require the reader to keep reading to learn the answer to a burning question or for ways they can verify the information. For example, a press release headline should say something like, “Nissan to Release a Flying Car in 2014.” The reader will see those words and want to continue reading to learn more about the car but to also fact check.
- Prove your Credentials. As in the last example, the reader would continue to read but would really want to know who you, the author, were. Did you work for Nissan? Were you a family member of a designer at Nissan? Maybe you saw a prototype at a private car show. Think back to the newspaper days of the past and you can recall some reporters were popular for their outrageous stories while others were read for highly informative columns. You want readers to find your press professional and informative, or else you will wind up being treated as spam on the Internet.
- Be precise with your words. Flowery language and excessive wordiness is distracting. Each word should count and redundant words can lead to search engines penalizing the content. With fewer words and an easy to read format, your readers will have a higher likelihood of remaining engaged with your work. Avoid distractions by using the right words that get to the point quickly. Use fun and quirky topics to draw in attention like the press releases recently written by the Starbucks teams.
- Write in Active Voice. Strong verbs make your case in a more effective way. Use verbs that highlight the actions rather than talk about the news in a passive voice. For example, instead of saying, “Replacement parts are going to be made available to the consumers.” you could say, “The Company plans to immediately replace the defective parts.” Not only does it indicate a time frame but also an action the reader can expect for that particular situation.
- Maintain a Professional Tone. Stay away from using slang, comfortable phrases, and jargon that may be generational or create hype. There is a fine line between announcing news and advertising; readers can distinguish between the two and when they want to read information, they don’t expect to see excessive punctuation, cliché words and something that sounds too good to be true. While the Internet has contributed positively to many news areas, it has also created a vast amount of false advertising, and skeptical readers. The ads generated online have made readers wary of accepting pieces such as a press release at its face value due to their skepticism. By keeping the press release professional, you can help to avoid readers bypassing it and shorter really is better, as outlined by Entrepreneur.
- Keep a goal in mind. What sets this information apart from everything else? Why should anyone care about what you have to say? Everyone claims to do things like “save customers money” or “provide great customer service” so avoiding the terms that are present in many other boring press releases will help yours stand out. Focus on several things that are unique to this information and create sub-headers about that information to guide the reader through the piece. This also provides the reader with a chance to skim through and read the parts that are of interest to them. The format of the press release is part of the set of goals set forth for the piece and some technical guidelines can be found at the Express Writers blog.
- Showcase your skills and the skills of the company or people for whom the press release is written. Don’t be afraid to use descriptive words to demonstrate certifications, expert status, and the qualifications that set this press release apart from the others. If the company or personnel have won awards, be sure to mention those in the press release as well. This allows the reader a sense of respect for the subject of the presser as they realize it is something to be taken seriously. For example, if you’re talking about a real estate expert, ensure you include all of their designations. There are thousands of real estate agents in the country, but few have more than one designation after their name, so when you are quoting one who does, be sure to include that information.
- Leave one or two important items out. Yes, it’s okay to leave the reader wanting more or wanting the chance to visit a website or other source for added information. This can lead to readers learning more and being pleased with what they find out. Leave the readers with a call to action such as visiting the company site, calling for more info, or attending the event being discussed.
A great press release is more than just sharing information; it is about catching the reader and creating a captive audience who will read the information.