Marketers and PR (public relations) people know that media communication has always been an important part of a brand promotion exercise. And press release is the core component of a communication process to share brand information cost effectively with consumers using mass media as an interface.
Now with the proliferation of digital media channels, the rules of media communication have undergone a massive shift. In traditional media, for example, if your press release is not picked by a newspaper or magazine, you’ll never be able to convey your brand message to target audience.
But now it’s different. The advantage of digital media is that even if your release is rejected by newspapers and magazines, you can still reach out to audiences effectively by just posting it on the web through a blog, a release distribution service, social media sites, company’s own website, and so on.
But for this, your release should be in line with the requirements of digital media. So, how should you write a good press release? Here are these five rules for you.
1. Top Line
The top line or title or headline of your press release should not only attract the journalists and readers, but it should also attract the search engines like Google, Bing, and others. While the entire content of the release should be optimized for search engines, title is the most important part from where search engines select your article.
To attract search engines, your title should not have more than 70 characters. And it should carry all the keywords that you think people will use on search engines to search related content. The most important word should appear first. If your company is not very popular, don’t start your title with your company name. Then you can start the headline with the product category like tablets, hotels, shoes, etc.
Suppose, your company name is Yourcompany, which is not a widely known company and runs a couple of hotels in, say, Shimla – a hill city. You have launched an economical package to woo summer travelers. Then your headline can be: “Hotels in Shimla Go Cheap at Yourcompany for Summer Travelers”.
In this example, we know that most people will go to search engines and search “Hotels in Shimla” or “Cheap hotels in Shimla” or “Hotels for summer travel”. Then your press release content (headline) will have a greater probability of appearing at top in search engines from where people can be directed to your site that can give them more information.
The opening sentences of a press release are as important as its headline to attract search engines as well as journalists. You should never start your release like an essay. For example, if your company has launched an e-commerce store to sell garments, you should not begin the release content like this: “Garments are becoming very important for human beings…” or some ho-hum stuff like this. You must know that even search engines get bored, and tend to ignore your content.
You should come straight to the point and begin your release like: “Yourcompany, a leading company in the garments business segment, has launched an e-commerce store to expand its operations in new terrains…”
With this kind of to-the-point writing style, you can attract more eyeballs from the web.
It’s generally observed that quotes from the top brass of the company are so convoluted and confusing that it’s better not to include any quotes in the press release. Roughly, nine out of every 10 quotes start with “We are excited…” or “We are thrilled…”. This is such a clichéd, repulsive style that you should avoid writing any such quotes in your press release.
You should include a quote from the spokesperson of the company only if it’s of some earth-shaking nature and different from the content that is already there in the release. Plus, keep the size of the quotes to maximum of two small sentences.
You should know that while indexing your articles, search engines get confused if the structure of the article is not correct or content is getting repeated within an article. You can’t afford to confuse search engines or the readers. Avoid putting quotes if there’s even a small possibility of avoiding them.
4. Bulleted Lists
This method is used as a value-addition technique to create search engine- and reader-friendly content. For creating bulleted lists of the salient features of your message, you can either rewrite the content from your press release or you can use findings from some publically available research reports that you’re allowed to use.
Bulleted points are very short sentences that are included at the right place in a press release to give additional information on the subject of the release in a focused manner. Put just three or four bullet points in your release. A typical bulleted list will appear like this:
Yourcompany’s video games target gamers in the age group of 18-30 years
Games can be downloaded from a web store
Each game comes with a price tag of $3.99
You can continue with the running text after putting the bulleted list.
Boilerplates are standard formulations about a company or a brand usually put at the bottom of a press release. For traditional media, companies used to put huge boilerplates – sometimes as big as the press release itself.
But now your boilerplate can be of just one or two sentences. Then you can give the hyperlink of your company’s website for additional information.
Remember, brief is beautiful in digital, new media. You have to say maximum in the minimum number of words. Typically, your press release should not have more than 800 words written in a structured format. Other standard rules like sentence construction, expression, language style guides, etc. will apply in digital media releases also.
Set these rules in stone if you really want to leverage digital media with the power of your press releases. As these releases may or may not be used by the conventional press, you can even start calling them Digital Media Releases (DMRs) instead of press releases. You are now ready to write your first DMR according to the rules stated above. Try it.
By Rakesh Raman, who is a government award-winning journalist and runs free school for deserving children under his NGO – RMN Foundation.