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Don’t Get Arnold Schwarzenegger To Write Your Press Release – Things To Avoid And Include For SEO-Friendly Press Releases

The days of cyborg-speak Press Releases – short bursts of incomprehensible language without narrative or emotion –  are as long gone as the box office glory days (and muscle mass) of the former action star. It’s time to terminate the dull press release and tell a more engaging story built for a digital audience. Even the term ‘press release’ is a faded star – media release is the new hot shot action hero, packaged with a keen eye for what works – and doesn’t work – for all the socially-connected platforms that make up the new media universe.

With the decade-long contraction in the print media, journalists are fewer in number and working at superhero capacity. Any pitch for their attention must tell a much more compelling story or be lost in a sea of worthless marketing words. Fortunately, it is that story – the well-crafted and compelling content – that the ever-expanding social media platforms are seeking to fill their own targeted niches. This array of potential publishing platforms – from Facebook,Twitter, Tumblr to digital-only media and blogs that allow information to stretch out – can springboard your PR campaigns. So an audience is potentially available but you have to know how to capture it with the right content.

Here are some key points to include and avoid when crafting a media or news release:

What To Include in a Media Release

SUBJECT LINES THAT SCINTILLATE AND HEADLINES THAT HOOK READERS

As a freelance writer, every word has value but a catchy subject line tops the bill – it’s the star attraction meant to bring the audience in. So think about your market and pick the showiest performer. Intrigue without being too opaque, entice without exaggeration, and promise no more than you deliver. Be creative, seductive and unexpected. And never state the subject as ‘press release’ – dull pitches are immediately deleted.

Start by asking yourself WHY the information matters – how it will help or inform or inspire a publication`s audience. Cut to the heart of the story and share that core insight. And don`t neglect emotion – fear, hope and desire lead to action.

Headlines must contain the hook of the story without a word extra – the meat will be in the lead paragraph . But don`t butcher the language – everything in a Press Release should be written for a human reader, not a search engine. SEO keywords are valuable but only if they fit the purpose of the press release – if you can match your news story to your search strategy you will build your audience for all the right reasons.

LEAD WITH A STORY THAT MATTERS AND PROVIDE EVERY DETAIL

Smart media releases are not puff pieces announcing trivial company news nor trojan horses loaded up with  SEO key words and little more. Press releases are strategic opportunities to share a relevant story that will engage, inform and inspire an audience starting with a single editor.

You have about 2 crisply-written paragraphs to tell everything that is important in your tale. Stick to that message and don`t lose your focus. Be interesting, useful and relevant to your targeted audience. Many press releases fail to fully consider the logical expectations of an audience to understand the significance of this news – why does it merit their attention, how does it fit into the larger picture.

Details are essential. Editors and readers hate having to do extra work to find essential information. Curate data, facts and stats so they add value to the story. Adding links to supplemental information – whether on your company website or 3rd party – is useful but only if a natural extension of the story and not done for SEO back-linking purposes.

Since its Penguin update, Google now penalizes press releases built with lots of hyperlinks for SEO reasons. You must earn link credit  by having stand-out, socially-relevant content instead of trying to game the system to get traffic. So include useful links in press releases but make sure they are properly coded as no-follow links.

INCLUDE A PHOTO, VIDEO, INFOGRAPHIC AND A STAND-OUT QUOTE

Research data shows that including photos, videos and other shareable creative content contained in a press releasee can have a valuable SEO benefit. They help boost visibility – potentially by over 50%.  But the primary reason for including well-curated supplemental content is to help benefit the story the press release is telling. They bring a broader experience to the facts being stated – so readers can see, hear and feel your message. And this content provides opportunities for your message to leak out into other social streams such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Think of your press release as a packaged story and then track how it gets passed around.

Quotes add stature and personality to your story. To quote someone who had both qualities (and a smoky voice), Marlene Dietrich once said:

“I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognised wiser than oneself“.

Eloquence and authority are the perfect combination when selecting a quote to highlight. Even a single sentence, well-turned, can make a huge mark.

CLOSE WITH A COMPELLING SHORT STORY ABOUT YOUR COMPANY

The last paragraph is typically used to state a standard set of information about a company and is often boilerplate bland. Never waste a word. Use that space to maximise the value of your company`s story and make the material as interesting as the news that you are announcing. It`s a great place to evoke the brand`s mission or frame the value of your company`s goals and successes. End on a high note that rings true.

What To Avoid  In A Media Release

AVOID HYPERBOLE, JARGON, CLICHES, AND FLUFF

Press Releases must be strictly edited to avoid all the temptations to hype your news. Journalists hate the puff magic of PR – all that overselling. And readers get lost in jargon and bored by clches. Keep your message crisp and concise and write for people, not machines. If a publication chooses to build a story around your information, they can let your news flower in their own unique way. They can add the colour. The job of a press release is to stick to the facts and influence through authenticity. Write in a smart but comfortable way that is easily understood by everyone.

AVOID FACTUAL ERRORS

There is an assumption of trust built-in to every press release. You have to be as good as your words. The moment any information is determined faulty, the news loses its value and the company its credibility. So double-check all your facts, assertions, quotes and links. You want to burnish your brand`s reputation not blow it up. And always spell-check your way to success – bad grammar betrays your professionalism.

DON’T BURY YOUR CONTACT INFO OR YOUR PR HEAD IN THE SAND

While a press release should sum up your news, it is not always the end of the story. Make your contact information easy to find and always be ready to answer any questions from reporters or readers. You want that attention and you need to  be prepared for it. Build a relationship with individual journalists and your broader audience so they become increasingly receptive to your brand information.

Your audience is made up of people however they access your company`s message. Connect with them in a meaningful and authentic way and elevate your authority, engagement and page ranking.

To open up a conversation about how you can get more muscle from your messaging, click here and I`ll be happy to hear your story.

– b