February 28, 2012
Submitting press releases has become the new “in” thing for internet marketers. Sure, press releases are a great way to gain exposure and build quality backlinks for your website. However, this entire strategy is based on the assumption that you’re publishing the right kinds of press releases.
If you’re dealing with quality press releases, they should be doing these 5 things:
1. Providing Information – Not a Sales Pitch
This is the single biggest reason that press releases wind up in the garbage! By definition, a press release’s job is to inform the media of something new, not to sound like an infomercial.
When I was in the news biz, we had an all-too-commonly used phrase when we received press releases like this – “send ’em a rate card.” After all, what you’re really doing by publishing that salesy press release is asking for free exposure on their station, on their website, or in their newspaper. Instead, you’d be better off asking for a rate card – or, the card that TV stations and newspapers use to determine advertising rates.
From an internet marketing perspective, many of the good press release distribution websites will not accept your release if it sounds like a sales pitch. But even if your distribution site allows any and all press releases, don’t insult news agencies’ intelligence with sales copy presented as “facts.” Trust me, no legitimate news agency is going to fall for it!
2. Answering Journalism’s Biggest Questions
OK, so you need press releases that are informative. So, how do you actually go about doing that?
Most people fail to realize one very important thing about the news biz – that it’s all about answering a handful of questions. From Walter Cronkite to the kid writing for his school newspaper, good reporting is based on providing answers to six questions – who, what, where, when, why, and how.
Good press releases are designed to give reporters all of the important facts, so that they can turn around and report them to their viewers or readers. If your press release doesn’t answer all of these questions – or makes the answers too difficult to comprehend – you’re never going to see the information pop up on any newscast, in any newspaper, or on any online news service.
3. Using the “Inverted Pyramid” Style of Writing
Right off the bat, this may sound like one of those super-fancy terms that big-money journalism professors dish out to their students. And, yes, it’s something that was drilled into my head while I was in college! In reality, though, the concept isn’t very hard to understand – but it’s very vital to your press release writing.
Using the “inverted pyramid” means putting the biggest, most important facts at the top of your story – followed by other, less important (but still newsworthy) details. Background information – like contact information, hours of operation, or a website that will give you more details – goes last. Unfortunately, lots of people write press releases based on the chronological order of events – instead of which events are most important.
Just how important is the inverted pyramid?
Here’s a fake press release that places all of the events in order of how they happened:
“On Thursday, around 1:30 PM, at the XYZ Bank on Franklin Street, a man in a mask came in. First, he demanded money. Then, when he didn’t get the money fast enough, he shot three people. A short time later, they all died from their injuries.”
What’s the biggest, most important fact? That three people were murdered during a bank robbery! Unfortunately, in this example, those details come last, simply because they happened last.
Now, let’s try it with the inverted pyramid:
“Three people were shot and killed during a bank robbery at XYZ Bank on Thursday afternoon. Around 1:30, a man in a mask came in and demanded money. When he didn’t get it fast enough, he began shooting.”
Much better, right?
Hopefully your press releases won’t be as violent as our fake one, but it’s easy to see how important your positioning of the facts is, no matter what the story is!
4. Giving Reporters a Story They Can Turn Today
“Turning” has a very different connotation in the news biz. When you’re a news reporter, your entire goal for the day is to “turn” a story – and the sooner you can get it turned, the better. After all, you only have until the 6:00 news starts or until the paper goes to bed to finish everything.
By sending out press releases that answer the all-important six questions and placing the most important facts at the beginning, you’re making a reporter’s job much easier. Trust me, a day at work is much better when you have a press release in your hand that you can take to the morning news meeting and pitch to your boss!
By publishing press releases that reporters can grab and make a story out of – without any additional phone calls or research – you’re making their day! If they WANT to call you up and ask a few deeper questions, they can – but your press release shouldn’t be so vague that they have to. The vaguer that you are in your press release writing, the less likely that a reporter can use it to turn a story today – and the more likely they are to throw your press release in the garbage!
5. Providing Time-Sensitive Information
Allow me to let you in on a little secret – it’s called “news” for a reason! Quality news agencies don’t care what happened a week ago or a month ago. They’re in the business of telling people what’s going on right now. If your press release has outdated information, it’s not going to be considered newsworthy – no matter how well-written it is.
So, what’s the kind of time-sensitive information that news agencies are looking for?
New developments in your industry – like a new law that just passed and how it’s going to affect people. New products that can make life easier, cheaper, or healthier for people. Temporary discounts that can save people money. These are only a few examples, and there are probably plenty more that apply to your business that I haven’t mentioned. But here’s the bottom line – if you have to really twist something to make it appear “newsworthy,” it probably isn’t.
As a former news anchor, Nicole Beckett threw away more press releases than you’ll ever see in a lifetime! She knows what kind of ‘press release writing grabs news agencies’ attention. As the owner of Premier Content Source, Nicole can use her experience from the “other side of the fence” to help your business thrive.