The Key to Writing a Successful Press Release

Press releases represent a unique mode of communications, and to write a powerful release, you must follow certain rules.

First of all, do not write a press release like an English essay. Press releases are used to convey newsworthy material to editors and reporters, and they expect you to follow a standard format.

The body of the release should consist of plainly stated facts, and opinion should only appear in the quotations.

Tone represents a key component of press releases. The body of the release should consist of plainly stated facts, and opinion should only appear in the quotations.

Releases also follow a “reverse pyramid” structure with the most newsworthy material presented up front and the background towards the end. The headline should be short and succinct, and make sure to include the name of the company or product you are promoting there.

The first paragraph basically restates the headline with the second paragraph used to flesh it out. The quote should always be the third paragraph.

At the end of the release, you should include an “About” section, a generic description of the company, and you can use this “boilerplate” in subsequent releases as well.

If you are trying to get the release placed in a key magazine or journal, it helps to also include graphic support, perhaps a screenshot of the product or something else related to the topic of the release.

That’s pretty simple on paper, but you would be surprised how many PR professionals fail to follow this format. The press release drives much of its power from the contrast between the facts in the body of the release and the opinion in the quotes. The facts should be stated simply and concisely, and the quotes can contain more flowerly language.

Unless you are giving some publication an exclusive, it is perfectly fine to pitch the same release to a number of different publications. For online distribution of press releases, PRWeb provides a relatively inexpensive and popular means of distribution. PR Newswire may be used for special occasions and key events because it is much more costly.

You should read some press releases from competing organizations as well as various fields of endeavor, and you will quickly get the hang of it. One other caveat: don’t make it too long. A page and a half should be sufficient; definitely no more than two pages.


Creating Valuable Content

The creation of valuable content represents the key goal in both marketing and search engine optimization. This content should be diversified and include press releases, bylined articles, e-newsletters and blogs, to name a few. The most successful campaigns will be organized into a time-related effort; for example, we recommend one press release per month, one blog entry every week and an e-newsletter every other month.

The creation of valuable content represents the key goal in both marketing and search engine optimization.

By following these guidelines, companies will create more content in the long run than if they exceeded these frequencies in a more organic approach. Moreover, they will be complying with Google’s overarching goal in search engine results: the location of valuable content. This white-hat approach to search engine optimization always works best because Google is continually updating their search engine algorithm to foil those who try to cut corners to manipulate the results.

In determining the nature of the content created, it is always better to create “evergreen” material. Evergreen material stands the test of time; that is, the information will possess a generic aspect so it won’t become stale or dated. Evergreen content will continue to draw readers on an ongoing basis.

In the creation of valuable content, some basic writing skills must be employed. While ideally the content will be drafted by a public relations professional, often the CEO or another executive must act independently. We suggest following three basic rules; 1) Do not subordinate your ideas with “that” or “which;” 2) Avoid using the verb “to be” in favor of most active and colorful verbs; 3) If you can say something in two words instead of three, do so; economy of writing always works best.

Of course, the writing also depends upon the format you are using. Press releases are best for newsworthy material, a change in personnel, procedure or new products. Bylined articles demonstrate your expertise in various topics and establish you as a guru. Newsletter articles must cover topics of general interest to your industry. We will delve into these formats more deeply in subsequent entries.


How to Measure Public Relations

Traditionally, public relations has always been difficult to measure. In traditional PR, pros often used “column-inches” to measure reputation management. However, this process did not account for the quality of the coverage or its ability to encourage follow-up. In the online world, however, the bane of measurement has largely subsided. Clients can monitor factors such as “clicks” to evaluate marketing campaigns, and some vendors such as Facebook often help users to measure response rate in a number of ways.

… to pursue due diligence, you must start to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts

Perhaps, the most important measure for online publicity involves the use of Google Analytics. Since the corporate website represents a focal point for generating  interest, Google has provided this helpful program with a number of measurements to evaluate a search engine optimization campaign and the engagement of prospects once they reach your website.

Online publicity involves a number of techniques such as blog entries, online press distribution, e-newsletters and online news coverage. As corporate clients engage in these techniques, they should use Google Analytics as a neutral monitor of their success. The most effective way to set this up involves creating a spreadsheet to track key parameters each month. Google Analytics provides a comprehensive list of measurements to evaluate any website.

Assuming your I.T. person has enabled Google Analytics (automatically installed with nearly every website), simply sign in to Google and search for Google Analytics to access your account. Under “audience overview,” you will find every statistics you need. The most important item is the number of “users.” This number tells you how many unique visitors have accessed your website in any given time period. If this number does not increase on a monthly basis, your publicity efforts have not been effective.

In addition to SEO, which affects how many visitors are interested in your company website, you can also use Google Analytics to measure “engagement.” How do visitors respond once they get there? Statistics such as the average session duration and page visits per session provide this information. One particularly interesting statistic involves the bounce rate. The bounce rate tells you what percentage of people visit just one page and then leave. A high bounce rate means your engagement is dismal.

You can address the results from Google Analytics in many ways. But to pursue due diligence, you must start to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. And Google provides the perfect tools to do so.


Public Relations Definition and Results

Public relations as an industry simply connotes any form of unpaid publicity.

Before you can properly pitch your public relations services, you must make sure your prospect knows what you do. The common definition of public relations has absolutely nothing to do with what the practice is all about. In general, public relations in the everyday parlance of the English language means a slightly dishonest manipulation of public opinion for somewhat dubious ends.

In reality, public relations as an industry simply connotes any form of unpaid publicity. Thus, any form of publicity that does not involve a direct payment, that is advertising, is public relations. In common practice, public relations involves the generation of news articles by pitching reporters or editors of a publication. In the Internet age, public relations has expanded to include other forms of unpaid publicity such as blogs, e-newsletters and the distribution of online press releases.

Most experts suggest that the ideal marketing budget for any company should include about 50 percent advertising and 50 percent public relations. In my opinion, public relations is even more important. For example, what are you more likely to read, a large display ad or a small interesting news article on the same page?

Once you overcome the resistance to public relations, you are faced with another conundrum. The impact of public relations is notoriously hard to measure. While advertising can be measured by the response rate, the impact of a public relations campaign can be much more amorphous. Public relations involves reputation management, and its effects general involve a more long-term impact based on publicity over many months. But clients typically become restless, and many expect immediate results.

This difficulty can be easily solved in the sphere of online public relations. In my post next week, I will discuss the best way to measure the impact of public relations online through Google Analytics, which can be used to quantify both search engine optimization and client engagement.