|Copyright (c) 2011 Enzo F. Cesario
http://www.Brandsplat.com/Certain concepts just carry over well from print journalism. The
press release, the tried and true method of updating the public
on an organization’s affairs, is an example of just how well
such a concept can survive. While there have been a few
adjustments to the specifics, such as the use of keywords and
SEO-oriented writing, the core structure of the press release
remains the same.
Of course, as with all well-established writing conventions, the
press release has seen its share of abuses. Press releases are
such a routine part of any organization’s operations that they
often see quality sacrificed in the name of quantity. They’re
viewed as a source of easy SEO rankings if they’re given any
thought at all, and naturally the quality of these publications
suffers in line with the degree of neglect.
Of course, no one has to follow this trend. There are a number of
things one can do to create a solid press release. Here are a few
of the simpler but oft-overlooked steps that can redeem this
marketing tool into a primary force.
Hook with the Lede
The lede is that first sentence in a journalism story, a press
release included. The lede must contain everything the story is
going to talk about. If nothing else, it must boil the story down
to its most relevant points, because very often people read the
first few lines of a news story, then move on.
The key then lies in finding the most interesting part of the
story and making the lede into a verbal “hook” that people can
get ahold of. Don’t hide your big announcement; sure, it works
for Steve Jobs because attendees at the Apple conferences aren’t
going to leave mid-speech. But people reading a press release can
always click away, so make sure you get the “what’s that now?”
out in front of them immediately.
Keep the Headline on Topic, Not on Company
The headline is not the place to brand your company. There are
many wonderful venues for promoting your brand or company name;
trying to sandwich it into the headline is simply asking for
trouble, because all it does is give the press release away as a
marketing effort. The story may well be solid journalistic gold,
but it will still be ignored because people were turned off by
Instead, treat the headline as a summary companion to the lede,
with catchy writing and an on-topic message that draws readers’
eyes down to the lede in order to see what the headline is
Remember Strunk and White’s eternal maxim: omit needless words.
Remember once more that people tend to read a few lines into any
news story, then move on. The longer a story can keep the
reader’s attention, the better it is doing. Words that hinder
this process are introducing friction into what should ideally be
a smooth process. This includes words that are obscure, very long
words and, worst of all, jargon.
There is a place in the world for jargon. That place is between
experts in a field who want to communicate more precisely and
effectively. It is not in the lines of a press release. Most
people are not experts in any given field, so using highly
specific terms such as jargon is not going to help. It does not
make a publication sound more intelligent — it makes it sound
like it’s geared toward someone else at best, or pretentious at
worst. Discard the jargon and go for simple explanations instead.
Dress it Up
Simplicity is ideal for the core message of a press release, but
there are ways to amplify the effectiveness of each part of the
release given the power of online media.
Given the widespread access to broadband, embedding photos and
videos is no longer a faux pas. If you’re doing a press release
on a trade show, include some pictures of the booths from the
last year’s show, perhaps a video of a short interview talking
about the highlights of this year’s events. Again, keep the
material on-topic; the goal is to amplify what you’re talking
about in the release, not to distract from it.
Additionally, linking content is easy and efficient. Perhaps your
release cites a major study your organization just completed and
is releasing. Include a link to the study in the headline or lede
so that people can click over to it immediately. This technique
works for all manner of content, incidentally. If you’re
mentioning some manner of content that your organization is
providing, be it product or service, put a link to it in the lede
or near to the lede, so people can go right over and take a look.
It shouldn’t have to be said anymore, but there is always a need
to remember the basic principles of good writing. Pay attention
to grammar and punctuation. Use brief and active-voice
statements. Don’t editorialize. Keep the press release
straightforward and cite the facts you want conveyed.
These are not options, they’re important fundamentals. If you
break the rules of the basics, your credibility will suffer.
Remembering to mind them will help reduce the polish that has to
go into a release later on.
Enzo F. Cesario is an online branding specialist
and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content
agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, articles, videos
and social media in the “voice” of our client’s
brand. It makes sites more findable and brands more
recognizable. For the free Brandcasting Report go to
http://www.BrandSplat.com/ or visit our blog at