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By Lorrie Thomas Ross | Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Power of Modern Press Releases

The power of the modern press (releases)

Press releases are essential to effective public relations, but they’re not written for the press alone. Press releases are emerging as a critical component of content marketing, social media marketing, earned media, and search marketing strategies.

Modern-day press release writers need to know what to write about, understand formatting, and have a strategic distribution plan.

Press Release Topic Selection

The first step to writing a press release is simple: Select a newsworthy topic. Newsworthy topics go beyond content that warrants being reported in the news; they can be a report of recent events, previously unknown information, or educational content. So many interesting things happen at organizations that are blogged about or emailed to customers—but they’re totally overlooked as potential press release content.

Open your mind to what can be re-purposed into a press release, such as content that can educate the media as well as current or prospective customers. What do they need to know to understand why you are worth working with?

We connect with the media and public through stories; story telling is story selling. The more you get your story out there—with press releases and other marketing materials—the more you build awareness, make connections, and serve customers.

Press Release Format

After you select a topic, you must address the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and Who Cares points as they relate to your topic. In my Writing Press Releases course, I walk you through writing a release using a hands-on example, and give tips as well as templates to work from.

The modern press release format includes

  • Title
  • Subhead
  • Body
  • Quote
  • Boilerplate

The title summarizes the whole release. It needs to be short (fitting on one line, often in text larger than the rest of the release) and capture reader interest. The title can make or break a press release. It needs to be pithy, powerful, and to the point.

The subhead is twolines of italicized text supporting the title. It plays off the title, offering more description. I still see a lot of releases that miss this critical opportunity to further educate a reader and lure them into reading the whole release.

The body of the release is the text that further covers the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and Who Cares points. It starts with the location of the organization and the date, then continues to share information that expands on the title and subhead. It’s a best practice to include a quote from an authorized spokesperson. This can be a company leader, a willing customer, or someone else willing to give a pre-approved statement on behalf of the organization and in line with the press release topic. The quote serves as an authentic voice for the release, giving the facts-based text a human touch; it’s also a statement that the media knows they have permission to copy and use if they decide to run a story about your release topic.

The last piece of the press release format is the boilerplate. This is the “About the Company or Person” part. Think of the boilerplate as an elevator pitch; it’s usually no more than five sentences that explain what your organization is, putting your best foot forward. Most boilerplates are used and re-used in press releases, so while it may not be easy to write one the first time, know that the effort will pay you back on future releases.

Press Release Distribution

A press release does you no good if it’s not being read, right? Having a game plan for how you will distribute your press release is a must. Do you have an email list you plan to send it to? Or a media contact list? Is there a press page on your site that you can add it to? Many organizations use press release distribution companies like PRWeb and PR Newswire to get their releases out to the wires.

Another way to get your press release distributed is to attract the attention of search engines. See my Top 5 Tips for Search-Friendly Press Releases course for help.

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