As the importance of SEO becomes increasingly widely recognised, millions more marketers have started churning out press releases. Unfortunately, many seem less concerned about the potential media coverage than about the optimisation benefits.
A good press release, when it’s picked up on and used by the media, can do wonders for your brand awareness and corporate authority. But it’s also great for optimisation, and if your agency is writing slapdash articles, calling them press releases and distributing them to a bunch of websites where nobody will ever read them, then you’re barely scraping the surface of your press release potential.
By creating press releases that writers and bloggers will actually use, your effort can pack a far more powerful punch both in online and offline marketing. Here are some of my top tips for dramatically better releases.
Run some analysis or research
Forget every other tip in this article; if your press release doesn’t have a good story then it won’t even get read, let alone used. Although a good story for an industry-specific publication may not be something the editor of The Times would publish, your releases have to have a decent hook, no matter how niche your field. Otherwise you are doing nothing more than churning out half-hearted copy that no human will ever read!
Pro top tip
Invest in your release! Analyse your company’s sales data and see if there’s an interesting trend you can highlight, run a survey among your customers or on your website, or even consider paying an agency to conduct research on your behalf.
That way, you have an actual story that goes beyond ‘new product launched’. You can of course put out a release when you want to sell a new service or product, but make sure there’s something juicier in there for the writer too.
Build relationships with writers
The best way to garner press attention for your release is to have an existing relationship with the journalists or bloggers you’re targeting.
For larger brands with bigger budgets, this can mean taking a few writers out for a meal to discuss working with them in the future. Companies with less cash and smaller teams may do better chatting to relevant writers via platforms like Twitter, commenting on their blogs and gaining introductions at conferences and other industry events.
You may also benefit from ringing around a few of the writers you know, just to bring their attention to your release. A quick, friendly chat on the phone can work wonders.
Pro top tip
If you’re friendly with a particularly well-known blogger or writer, then why not offer them exclusive access to your release in advance? You’ll do them a favour by offering them an exclusive and it makes it more likely that your story will get publicity.
Get your spelling and grammar right
All journalists and most bloggers care about spelling, punctuation and grammar. They can’t help it – it’s wired into their minds, and for good reason. Badly written news articles look unprofessional and untrustworthy, and the same goes for press releases.
So, if you want your pitch for their attention to look professional, have it proofread before you send it.
Pro top tip
Forget WRITING IN ATTENTION-GRABBING CAPITALS and ditch the over-excited exclamation marks!!!! They make your content look spammy and unprofessional.
If a writer has opened your release, the sight of an abused caps-lock button or an abundance of exclamation marks will just make them close it again. And what’s more, they’ll be less likely to open your emails in the future.
Be clear, precise and concise
Writers are busy, busy people. Don’t waste their time – get to the point as early as possible or you risk them never getting as far as your actual story.
Say what you have to say in as few words as possible and be strict with yourself when you come to edit your release.
Use a professional writer if you aren’t confident about writing well. There are even some copywriters who charge just a few pounds to proofread work, so you can get a professional’s opinion even if your budget is stretched.
Pro top tip
While puns can be fun, a good headline is a clear one that shows the writer exactly what they will get from the release.
The really good news is that this is also great for SEO, as it makes it more likely that your keywords will fit neatly into your headline.
Justify your claims
Once people start actually reading your press releases, you’ll quickly learn how essential it is that you can justify any claims you make.
Journos and bloggers can be a clever bunch, and are likely to pick up on any claims you can’t substantiate. That means that your release could result in a negative story, which is hardly the point.
Pro top tip
When making any kind of claim, asterix it and include as much information regarding it as possible beneath the article, such as links, survey size and so on.
If a writer is half-heartedly considering running your story but then decides they would need to contact you for additional details, it might just put them off using it.
Journalists are an overworked race, while bloggers often work in their spare time, meaning they don’t always have time to research. Make it easy for them.