Press Release Format Guide and Distribution Services
Catching a readers attention quickly is an important factor when writing your press release, but what press release format do you use? Is it OK to work from a template or sample press release found online? And when you are done, what distribution services really work? So many questions ... let's find some answers.
- Make an Impact with the Press Release Title and Opening Paragraph
With rare exception, your initial press release will only be seen by editors or webmasters looking for content for their newspapers, periodicals and web sites. Once these individuals choose to use your information, they generally edit or embellish your information to cater to what they believe are the best interests of their specific audience. With this being the case, the most important part of your press release is the title and first paragraph because that is all that will ever be read unless that information compels an editor to read on.
The press release format for your title is simple. Get to the point and keep the title as short as possible while doing so. For example, let's say your company just created a new gizmo that will improve the experience of how we open sardine cans. Your title should use every important keyword while also expressing a primary benefit.
- Revolutionary Gizmo Removes Stress of Opening Sardine Cans
- Enjoy Sardines More than Ever By Using New Sardine Can Gizmo
- Lose Weight Quickly! New Sardine Can Gizmo Makes It Easier
On the other hand, a less helpful direction to take is to focus on the features of a product or service. To help clarify, a benefit is something you feel or experience, while a feature is data that you see or become informed about. Features are important, but they don't have the same effect as a benefit. For example, using the same topic from before, let's see a few titles that focus on features.
- New Sardine Can Gizmo Comes in Seven Colors
- Open Your Sardine Cans With New Heavy Duty Gizmo
- New Sardine Can Gizmo Ships In Decorative Box
The key to learn here is that people are motivated by what may benefit them. They also want to learn of all the features, but it's the benefits that grab their attention in the first place. As an editor, if a press release title is dull or focuses on features, I assume the article follows suit, and I go onto the next one ... never having read it at all. It may or may not be fair, but with so many press releases being submitted, you learn quickly what may just be a waste of time.
The first paragraph follows in the same spirit of the title in that you want to use all your key words and focus on benefits. This doesn't mean you can't or don't mention a feature, but that first paragraph should leave the reader with a good picture of how the product or service will improve their lives in same way. Don't get too technical and don't tell a story, but provide just enough data so readers know what the product is, but focus more on how it will be helpful. For example...
- The new sardine can Gizmo, developed by Gizmo Inc, has revolutionized how we will see and eat sardines for many years to come. You'll enjoy eating more sardines because you can open cans with ease and without fear of being cut or splashed. Originally designed to help those with arthritis, the sardine can Gizmo takes the stress out of eating healthy.
- Typical Press Release Format Guidelines
Depending upon the service, product or event you are looking to announce, multiple press release formats or press release templates could be followed. I'm not even going to begin to try to provide press release samples that cover all these instances, but I will provide a format that covers the basics and will be more than adequate for most presentations.
- NEVER USE ALL-CAPS FOR YOUR TITLE, OPENING PARAGRAPH OR ANY PART OF YOUR PRESS RELEASE. MOST EDITORS WILL IGNORE YOU. IT ONLY MAKES READING MORE DIFFICULT AND YOU DON'T WANT TO DO THAT.
- Prepare a summary paragraph that is not simply a copy of your opening paragraph. This would be used when filing the press release electronically or when briefly referring to it in a cover letter or email.
- Prefix your first paragraph with "City, State - Written Month, Day and Year"
eg. ( Atlanta, Georgia - December 15, 2010 - )
- Don't add any special fonts or formatting to your press release since this might just create copying problems. Keep everything plain text and leave a full single space between paragraphs.
- Use your spell checker and grammar checker, if available, plus have at least one other person read your press release to check for errors, omissions, unexplained references, and grammar issues before making any submission.
- Maintain an article size of 500 to 1000 words. This is plenty to get the word out. If an editor needs more information, they will contact you.
- As much as press releases are indirect advertisements, do not directly promote any product or service by using sales incentives or sales gimmicks. This is not the purpose of a press release. With that in mind, do not include more than two or three web site references within the article.
- Press Release Distribution - The Polishing Touch
I had tried at some time in the past to collect the email and snail mail addresses of local papers and major nationwide papers so that I could submit my press releases, but it was a lot of work that did not pay back at all. You can't do everything. It's one thing to write a press release, and even then you could get help writing a press release, but it's a whole other thing to distribute one.
There are dozens of businesses that provide press release distribution services, as well as press release writing services and press release promotion. I have connections with a few that I have listed below. I do obtain a commissions when my endorsement leads to a sale, however, I endorse them also because I have or still do use these same services for my own business purposes.
- PRWeb - Get your news to consumers, journalists and bloggers. Increase your rankings in search engines. Drive traffic to your website.
If you follow the press release guidelines above, take your time, and carefully consider the message you want to get across to people, you should experience a decent response to your press release.
As an afterthought, I would also like to share some information on the types of press releases I will almost never publish. Whether a press release is formatted and distributed well or not, some subjects are not as interesting to the readers and editors as it may be to the writer or owner of the press release.
For example, whenever a press release starts with " New Web Site...", "Updated Web Site...", my first thought is "This is not news. This is somebody struggling to find a reason to justify a press release." The main reason I think that way is because I am constantly revamping web sites or adding new websites, but that isn't news. What is news is if there is a great new product or service provided by this web site, new or not, but I'm not impressed by a press release title about a new web site. As mentioned earlier, stick with benefits, not features.
This goes the same for "Updated Product Page ...", "New Products Added ...". Again, this is not news. This is telling me about your store procedures and internal business schedules. If you truly have a new product, don't state it, express it... "New Products Make It Easier To Enjoy Sardines"
By the way, I selected a Sardine Can Gizmo in my examples only to prove that anything can sound interesting if you stick to showing how it may benefit the reader.
Thank-you for allowing me to share my experience and ideas with you.
President and Chief Webmaster, Designing Online, Inc.
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