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Debunking Press Releases

Nov 20, 2009 / by Dan Bischoff

newsiesAt the Tricks and Treats Workshop I talked about how to optimize press releases for the online public, and why you should write and send them consistently. What I did not explain as much, however, is what a press release is and how to write one.

After talking to a few people lately, I’ve realized not everyone gets it. For many, “press release” is synonymous with “article.” Others think it’s a sales pitch. Sometimes when I tell people what I do, they give me blank stares when the words “press” and “release” are repeated back-to-back in a sentence. They have no idea what a press release is.

So, in a nutshell, here’s my go at defining it. After all, it’s hard to optimize a press release if you don’t really know what one is in the first place.

My definition of press release: an announcement to the media and public about something newsworthy, written like a news story.

What does it mean to be “newsworthy?” If people want to read it, then it’s newsworthy. Basically, any announcement of something new with your business could probably be newsworthy. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Here’s what a press release is not:

1. Marketing or sales copy

2. An article

3. A blog

4. Promotional garbage

5. Did I mention it’s not marketing or sales copy?

To write a press release, think of how a reporter (not a columnist) would write the story. If you don’t know how one writes, read some newspaper articles. Follow their example. Almost always, a reporter is trying to be non-biased, and tries to communicate the news or story as clearly and straightforward as possible.

Press releases can drive traffic to your site, increase organic search engine optimization, and can greatly enhance your company’s image and provide instant credibility -- but only if reporters and bloggers publish your release or write a story from it. If you ever want a press release to be picked up by media and bloggers, write the way they would write it. They are likely never going to publish any exaggerated promotional material. They will publish something that their readers will want to read. Write it as if they could just take what you have and insert it into their publication.

Press releases should:

1. Be non-biased

2. Have no exaggerations

3. Have no clichés

4. Use quotes (from multiple people if you can)

5. Contain the facts

6. Contain the “Who,” “What,” “Where,” and “How” of the story

7. Written in the Inverted Pyramid and AP style

8. Be submitted to the right editor for publication

Editors and reporters are not paid to help you promote your business. They work long hours trying to fill up their sections of the paper and write stories and blog posts every day. That means they often depend on good releases to provide their audience content. If a press release is not written well, or it’s not written about something that a specific reporter covers, then it will be deleted as soon as it hits their inbox. If it is written well, and you write them consistently, you can generate buzz, both online and in the mainstream media, that can snowball quickly and bring positive exposure and website traffic that will boost your business.

Topics: Blog

Dan Bischoff

Written by Dan Bischoff

Dan is the former VP of Public Relations at PRMarketing.com. He has worked as a sports writer, a business editor, and an outdoor recreation editor in various media outlets -- including the Associated Press, The Salem Statesman Journal, the Deseret News and the Park Record. Dan received a Bachelor’s in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations from the University of Utah.

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