I wince at 99.99% of the press releases I receive daily. That’s because 99.99% look like sloppy cut-and-paste jobs, ones that have nothing to do with the Daily Fix and its readers, and everything to do with the sender, the sender, and, oh, right, the sender. Reading a press release that doesn’t make me wince is rare—yet not impossible.
Now and then, I receive press releases that are smart, audience-focused, brief, and interesting. So, for this week’s post, I thought I’d stay on the sunny side of the street and share seven traits about press releases that DO get read.
1. A Zippy Email Subject Line
The email subject line often sets the tone for the email I am about to skim. A subject line that captures (positive) attention is one that highlights the main focus of the article and why readers should care about that focus. Remember: The subject line isn’t a last-minute addition to your emailed press release. The subject line is the friend that will either get you into the party or get the door slammed on your face. Treat your friend well.
2. A Decent Greeting
Personalization would be fantastic. A “Hello, Veronica” beats a “Hi, There” any day. (However, my expectations are real, and most days, I receive emails from people addressing Victoria, Valerie, Vanessa, Sir/Madame, Blog Editor, Admin, Editor, Veronicaj, and Jarski.) Any greeting that shows that the sender did take time to read the guidelines for blog submissions or to understand the Daily Fix audience puts me in a good mood right away. So when writing your press releases, take time to think about how you will address the reader.
3. Clean, Crisp Lines
I receive myriad emails that have the greeting in a tiny font and the rest of the piece in a larger, bold font. Sometimes, the emails are in different colors or fonts. Clearly, my name was swapped out in a form email. I don’t expect people to handcraft every email to me, but, sheesh, at least don’t be obvious about the form letter.
A fantastic press release doesn’t look like a press release. Instead, a fabulous press release looks like a quick, interesting email from someone who knows his stuff. The “official” press release (if it really needs to be included at all… ) is an attachment or added to the bottom of an otherwise intriguing email.
4. Well-Written Summary of What’s Up
An elevator pitch is the best kind of pitch. For the digital world, imagine your elevator pitch is a tweet. Just tell me quickly and briefly why the news your about to share matters. What’s your point? And why should I care about it?
5. Bullet Points
Bullet points make for a easier, clearer read. Also, they demonstrate whether the author knows the most important details of the press release. If someone can’t write brief bullet points about their content, that person does not know his content. If you write good bullet points, you’re also very quotable, which is always a plus.
6. An Invitation to Talk More
One of my favorite endings to any email or press release is: “If you’ve any ideas of how this can be a better fit for the Daily Fix, please feel free to email me.” I love that line. Those emails respect the reader’s time and also demonstrates a willingness to create content that better suits the audience.
7. A Shareable Piece of Content
Remember when we were kids who attended birthday parties and received little goody bags? A good press release makes you feel like you’ve received something fun and captivating. So, when writing a press release, be sure to include information regarding where to get additional content for the readers. For example, a good press release will mention a related infographic available for download, a downloadable whitepaper, or even a cartoon or photo of the newsworthy event.
Remember, when you’re writing a press release, you are writing for a person, not a building, who will receive your press release. And if you’re really stuck on how to approach that person, imagine you’re writing for your neighbor, who knows nothing about your business and will end the conversation if you get too long-winded or boring. Always write for people.
COMMENTARY: Richard Edelman, President & CEO of Edelman, the world's largest public relations firm provides some interesting insights into where public relations is going, his business and philosophical views of public relations and the differences between public relations and advertising. Here's what Edelman said in a recent blog post.
"The world is moving in our direction (public relations). We are not selling to an audience; we are trying to build relationships across the community of stakeholders. The horizontal, peer-to-peer, conversation is supplanting the top-down, controlled messaging that is the essence of advertising. The consumer is now also an employee, a shareholder, a member of an NGO, a community activist and a passionate user of products willing to advise on design."
"PR is more than a set of tactics or tools. It’s a mindset; the ideas that come from PR people are different than those that come from advertising people. Both are engaged in storytelling, but the PR idea stimulates discussion and has the potential to play out over years. A PR idea has to start with relevancy and newsworthiness."
"We are going to take full advantage of the inherent advantages of PR, which are credibility, speed, two-way interaction and continuous story creation. In the end, the consumer may not care about the source of the content, but quality counts."
The Edelman website also had this to say about the role of public relations in brand marketing.
"This is a new era of public engagement pulling information from a variety of sources, experts and networks. Consumers demand a dialogue, and expect an empowered role with the brands they interact with, and the communities they touch."
"Concurrently, individuals no longer desire to be viewed as just “consumers,” but as citizens; they want to engage with brands and corporations to address social issues. The most successful organizations now must be driven by purpose as much as by profit. Edelman’s Business + Social Purpose helps brands, corporations and NGO’s unleash the power of business plus purpose for commercial success and social impact."
Skadeedle prepared the following infographic on Press Releases Do's and Don'ts. I hope this helps you on your goal of creating informative, impactful and engaging press releases that will get read.
The connection between public relations and social media should be very apparent judging from the number of press releases that are appearing in social networks like Facebook and Twitter. There are advantages and disadvantages to both social media giants as described in the following infographc by PRWeb:
According to digital media experts, press releases combining relevant digital media content get viewed more often than plain text press releases. The following infographic by PRNewswire makes this point very clear:
Courtesy of an article dated August 5, 2013 appearing in MarketingProfs, a comment appearing in Edelman.com about the agencies role in business and social purpose, Press Releases Do's and Don'ts by Skadeedle and Facebook vs Twitter: Which Social Media Network Wins The PR Race by PRWeb