10 Pointers on Writing and Distributing Extraordinary Press Releases

At Clearpoint Agency we think daily about writing press releases that not only convey the news, but communicate what our clients and products are all about.  The press release is critical to the entire PR program because it serves as the hub for so many forms of communications – emails to clients, social media, blog topics, website content and more.

Here are 10 tips we recommend if you want to write and distribute press releases that are exceptional!

1. Write a clear and compelling headline – no more than 22 words
Always put the company or product name in the headline. If you are using a newswire service (which we recommend you do – see tip #9) they will require that you identify the company or brand in the headline as well.

Make the headline interesting – search the web for ideas on how others have announced a new client, product or version.  Use your research to make your headline straightforward and interesting to your target audiences.

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2. Optimize your headline
Search engines rely heavily on page titles when determining rankings. Your press release’s headline is probably the single most important factor in press release optimization. Search engines don’t understand a play on words, so your headline should be straightforward and use the same language someone would use to search. Make sure you include your most important keywords/phrases. To be indexed in Google News, your headline should be between 2 and 22 words. Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) often limit titles displayed to about 67 characters, so your most important news should be in the first 67 letters and spaces of your headline.

3. Don’t forget a subheadline
The subheadline is another opportunity for you to tell the audience how important your news is or highlight benefits to key audiences. Just try not to repeat words from the headline or communicate the same exact concept in the subheadline. Give it some thought.

The subheadline can also help with SEO. While the subheadline will not be included in the title tag and therefore has a less significant role in press release SEO, its early placement in the body of the release makes it a great place to incorporate additional keywords not included in your (less than 22-word) headline.

4. The lead is important
When writing the lead paragraph remember the inverted pyramid, which calls for most of the facts of a press release be contained at the beginning. The lead paragraph succinctly includes the who, what, when, where and how of the story. If the reader were only to read the lead of a good press release, they would have a clear idea of your news. You can expound on the details in subsequent paragraphs of the press release.

5. Link early in your release
Hyperlinks are critical to SEO and press release optimization. Links help search engines associate the content of a release to other sites, which helps the release’s ranking. As with using keywords, linking is most effective in the first few paragraphs, where search engine spiders focus the most.

6. Avoid clichés like the plague (pun intended)
Basically a cliché is something that has become too familiar, overly used or commonplace. The use of common expressions instead of more creative, compelling phrases to communicate an idea is the true mark of an amateur writer.

7. Don’t use weak quotes
Really no quote should start with “We are so (fill in the blank with pleased, excited, honored, etc.) Get creative and maximize the power of the quote.  Use quotes to inject opinion and color into the press release.  Include a benefit statement or address the pain that the audience is experiencing and how the news solves the challenge.  Quotes are valuable real estate – don’t waste the opportunity.    You don’t want the CEO or other executives to seem as if they are going on and on.  Keep it tight and conversational. Also, here’s your chance to be promotional and insert some of the company’s key messages and/or services.

8. Add rich media to your releases
Readers love to see links to videos and images so they can learn more about your company and product. Google and the other major search engines love content with rich media (images, video and audio) too. Optimize your images by ensuring they have clear file names that describe the image and even incorporate a keyword (“ProductName.jpg” rather than a file name “Image_1234_v1.jpg”). Include a descriptive caption for any multimedia asset you distribute. Don’t forget to include your logo with your release (some wire services charge extra for this), as it is the image most likely to come up if someone searches directly for your brand name.

9. Use a newswire service if you can afford it
The newswire service will distribute your news to third-party sites, which is very good for SEO, and typically distributes to news rooms and bloggers across the country (depending on the wire and circuits you choose).  And an added bonus: the editors at the newswires who review the press releases before they are distributed over the wire are typically very good at catching mistakes and typos!
Also email your press release to key media contacts along with a CUSTOM pitch that tells them why the news is so important. Don’t “spam” editors, journalist and bloggers with emails that start with “Dear editor.” Instead personalize your note to them and offer a little information they might not get from the press release alone.  Here’s another hint: read a few of the journalists’ articles before you contact them to be sure they would even be interested in the topic of your announcement.

Email the press release to your staff, customers, partners and investors.  It’s astounding how often we think of getting news out to complete strangers before the people who care the most about the news.

10. Hire a PR firm if you don’t have the capability – it’s worth it!
If you are uncertain of your press release writing capabilities or simply unsure what the news angle should be (that’s a hint that it should contain an angle) then hire a PR firm to assist.  The good firms will ask you a lot of questions, and do their homework before they start developing press releases for you. And it’s worth it. PR is more than a press release or getting pickup of your announcements – it’s a long term strategy that will raise your visibility and strengthen your credibility, with the press release as the core.

This post was contributed by Bonnie Shaw, Clearpoint Agency President