Three Ways to Make Your Press Release Stand Out

#NPPRSA - The EdgeLike it or not, press releases are still a major resource for PR professionals. As a new PR pro you’ll may be charged with drafting a majority of the releases for your company. Below are three ways to make your next press release stand out from the crowd.

Craft a strong and engaging headline

To cut through the constant clutter of press releases, you’ve got to have a strong headline. When creating your headline you want to grab the audience’s attention and entice them to click or open the email.

You’ll want to answer the following questions: Why do I care? How is this news?

Let’s try a little experiment – which headline would you be interested in?

  • Atlanta had 45 Million visitors to the city in 2013

  • Atlanta sets new visitation record with 45 million visitors in 2013

The first headline is straight to the point, however there’s nothing to entice the reader to find out more information. The second headline tells me that Atlanta set a new record number of visitors to the city, which leads to more questions about how many visitors do other city attract? What was the previous record for the city?

Capture them with the lead

Now that you’ve got their attention, draw them in with the lead sentence. Most lead sentences are less than 30 words and answer the question of why the reader should continue on.

  • Atlanta set a new record for visitation in a single year, welcoming 45 million visitors in 2013. (17 words)

Make your way down the pyramid

For the rest of the release follow the Inverted Pyramid Structure. The first paragraph should contain, besides the lead, the most pertinent information and answering the 5 W’s (Who,What,Why, Where and When) of the release.

The next two paragraphs should provide additional or supporting information, though not as essential as the first. Quotes from executives or experts are often found here.

Finally, the last paragraph should contain the background details and basic general information.

Bonus Tip!

Before you begin writing a release, put yourself in the shoes of your intended audience. What would make you read this release? What makes this news? How would this make my job easier? By looking at the release from the reader’s perspective, you’ll gain a new sense of clarity.

What are some of your best press release tips?

Victoria Lightfoot (1)Victoria Lightfoot graduated from Georgia State University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, concentrating in public relations. She is currently the PR coordinator at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and volunteers on PRSA Georgia’s College Relations Committee and co-chairs the Travel & Tourism Special Interest Group. Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn and Twitter (@Victoria_Lenese). 


The Press Release Isn’t Dead: Writing for the Digital Age

In an age where established corporations are challenged by Internet startups and consumers order dinner on their smartphones, every industry is learning to adapt to modern advances in digital technology. In fact, industries are finding ways to harness these developments and capitalize on them.

Public relations is naturally at the forefront of this ever-changing landscape. A discipline responsible for communicating with diverse audiences needs to be where those audiences are and speaking their language. This change applies not only to mass consumers, but also to information and content gatekeepers – another role that has been transformed, not nullified, by the Digital Age.

As traditional media shifts, traditional media relations is feeling some growing pains as well. One of the basic tactical issues PR has to deal with is whether the press release is dead or alive. After all, it’s true that PR has evolved far past the elements conventionally associated with it. Modern campaigns commonly involve social strategies and larger-than-life activations that blur with what’s historically been seen as marketing territory. So it’s only natural that we pause to question whether press release dissemination – sometimes scorned as a pesky push tactic – is still relevant.

The truth is, no matter what you call it or what form it takes as digital continues to evolve, the function of the press release is, and always will be, needed.

Think about it like this. Scores of additional media targets have cropped up as the digital space expands. There are all sorts of individuals you might want to reach, from social media influencers to bloggers, that are increasingly difficult to differentiate from traditional journalists. Everyday consumers have been elevated to the level of news editors, as social media and consumer reviews live in the same space as the journalistic pieces we’ve always thought of as “media.”

It’s a tricky landscape to navigate, but success ultimately boils down to your ability to hold an early, active and formative role in telling and shaping your own story (or likely your organization’s or client’s story). Of course there are many ways to do this, like driving traffic to your site’s media center, fostering a social dialogue or sparking word of mouth interest. These methods are all good things, but the tried-and-true strategy of directly targeting those individuals who are writing and talking about you is still as effective as ever.

A press release is an opportunity to tell your organization’s story with the added credibility of your own proactive authority and voice. There will always be a need to do this, even if the look and sound of it changes from a standard document to a video pitch.

But just because the press release is a timeless PR tool does not mean we can let our approach to it stagnate. The Digital Age has altered the basis of what makes an effective pitch.

To really grasp this, we need to think more like journalists than ever. Keep in mind that their reality is shifting a swell. The 24/7 news cycle is morphing into more of a speed-of-light operation, and journalists are now expected to develop content for traditional outlets, websites and social media. In short, they are the busiest they’ve ever been.

On top of this, easy access to digital information and dissemination has created a much higher volume of incoming pitches. After all, just about anyone can write a pitch and blast it to contacts with a few clicks of Mail Merge. Journalists are weeding through an unprecedented amount of information that’s being hurled their way.

These trends aren’t going anywhere, so we need to be mindful of them as we craft our press releases. The demand for substance is higher, as the digital shift has ushered in a keen focus on content curation and has removed all tolerance for self-promotional language that gives neither journalists nor consumers what they’re seeking. The information inflation highlights the need for credible communication, and that’s exactly what you and your press release are positioned to deliver.

Besides the basics of thinking like a journalist and answering the questions you anticipate them asking – yes, the five W’s and all – you can take several steps to implement new digital trends that will help your press release cut through the clutter.

  • Use a multimedia news release and include elements that can be repurposed for news websites and blogs. Provide infographics, videos and hi-res images that your media target can easily repost.
  • Always consider search engine optimization. Remember that press releases are often housed on corporate websites or widely distributed online. Include keywords and links to relevant resources.
  • Take advantage of online distribution sites, like Vocus’s PRWeb, to help your information reach mass consumers just as quickly as traditional gatekeepers.
  • Make your content simple to share via social media. Be sure your headline fits in the 140-character Twitter limit, and incorporate links that allow readers to automatically share the release on top social platforms.

The form of the press release might change, but the facts, stats and newsworthiness still need to be there. There will always be a need for stories, as long as you know how to drive your story home.

How about you? What’s your take on press releases in the Digital Age?


Keri CookKeri Cook works with Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ consumer marketing practice in New York. She graduated from Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and writes on topics ranging from media relations to marketing trends, to corporate strategy and crisis communications. While completing her undergrad, Cook was named PRWeek’s 2012 Student of the Year.

Where’s my news release? Dos and don’ts of PR distribution by Zaneta Chuniq Inpower

The goal of every news release is to become accessible by its target audience through a selected medium. In current times, many articles may be published online via media websites and/or printed for distribution inside magazines, newspapers, newsletters, etc.

For those who have the responsibility of producing media awareness about a brand, product or client there are definite protocols to making sure that your news is read, heard and distributed successfully. As a new professional, it is important to safeguard your reputation as a PR professional and that of your company and/or business by keeping in mind these helpful tips when drafting and distributing your news release.

  1. Don’t blindly email journalists and bloggers
  2. Do use your own social media networks to distribute
  3. Do make your headline catchy and interesting
  4. Do take time to make the intro/opening engaging.
  5. Do write your news release to your audience. If its not relevant, no journalist or media source will pick up your release
  6. Do research for your pitch and have all your facts and information organized
  7. Don’t email journalists attachments! This may lead to an instant delete or even block from their inbox.
  8. Do spell check, then read your news release aloud. Any typos or grammatical errors will ultimately lead to your news being discarded and ruins your reputation as a PR professional.
  9. Do optimize your news release for SEO. Use necessary tags and relevant vocabulary for your news release to become searchable online.
  10. Don’t send any news releases that do not contain news!
  11. Don’t use fancy fonts, colors, font styles and other text attributes in your news release. Keep it simple.
  12. Don’t make your news release too long! Keep it under 650 words maximum
  13. Do include relevant links for background information. Make it easy for your journalist to conduct further research.

In summary, simply because a PR pro has submitted a news release to a journalist or editor does not mean that it will be printed or read! To help alleviate the pressure of playing the waiting game with media outlets and obsessively checking your Google Alerts or media monitoring service, the above tips will help you get your news to its desired audience.

Zaneta Chuniq InpowerZaneta Chuniq Inpower is owner and president of Chuniq PR, an independent media and marketing management firm. Additionally, she is the digital communications coordinator for Douglas J Aveda Institutes and Salons, editor  for Supreme Design Publishing and social media manager for COIN Handlers Management. Her personal interests include reading, international travel and culture and community revitalization. Inpower received her B.A. in advertising from Michigan State University. Zaneta Chuniq Inpower is a member of the Central Michigan PRSA chapter and is the PRSA New Professionals Section Executive Committee Blog Co-Chair.