Anatomy of an Online Press Release
By Mark Willaman, Co-Founder Newsworthy.ai
“PR is no longer just about media outreach. You now have the opportunity to drive a message directly to your customer. Everything you write should be focused on meeting the needs of your customer. Don’t worry so much about writing for the media. A good journalist will be able to pick up and follow these threads.” —David McInnis, founder of Newsworthy.ai (and PRWeb) in his article, Write the Perfect Press Release.
This article will help you write a better press release. We’re going to dissect each section of a typical online press release and provide tips and examples so that you’ll inch closer to writing the perfect press release!
But first, let’s discuss marketing personas — fictional character that represents and communicates attributes of a distinct set of people within a target market. It’s based on both qualitative and quantitative information. For press release writing, the sixteen personas (based on MBTI) can be grouped together into four macro personas; Competitive, Methodica, Humanistic, and Spontaneous — you can reach each persona by answering one question, specific to the target persona.
Before writing a single word to your press release, we recommend answering the following questions for each macro persona:
- What is the big idea? The Competitive Persona is interested in the best. They want to know why an idea, service, or product is superior to everything else that is available. Provide a clear explanation about why your offering is superior. Systems, results, case studies, backgrounds, and assessments all resonate with the Competitive Persona. Get this out in your opening paragraph.
- How does it work? The Methodical Persona is more interested in the “nuts and bolts”. This persona is interested in steps, instructions, and checklists. How does your product or service work? How does it make my job easier? Why should I care? This should persona will dig deep. Give it a couple of paragraphs.
- How does this thing make the world a better place? The Humanistic Persona wants to improve things for others. They are your connectors. You must provide hope. How does this service, product, or event make tomorrow better than today? Can you show some vulnerability? Provide examples, successes, and triumphs of ordinary people. Did you solve someone’s problem? Put the spotlight on the customer, not on yourself.
- What can you share that is surprising? The Spontaneous Persona seeks thrills, entertainment, and surprises. Think about how simple word choice can spark the creative mind. Is there something mysterious about your offering? Is there something counterintuitive about your news? Think in terms of oddities and interesting stories. Avoid puns and cheap shots. This is something that you can accomplish through your choice of images.
OK, let’s get started with the anatomy of a press release. I’m going to use Newsworthy.ai as our sample newswire.
Headline: Your headline is the most read part of your press release. Be creative but not deceptive. Use “Title Case” in your headlines. Never write a headline that is in ALL CAPS. Your headline should be written according to the AP Styleguide. When in doubt, use the conversion utility here.
Your headline should be no more than 70 Alphanumeric Characters. Why? Most search engines truncate titles containing more than 70 characters. Incomplete and shortened titles look unappealing to users and won’t entice them to click on your page.
HR.com Selects One Donation to Power New Charitable Giving Program
Headache Hat™ Expanding Distribution After 8 Years of Glowing Reviews
MyOutDesk Earns Best Virtual Assistant Services Company in 2022
Abstract / Summary: This is the second most read portion of your press release. Your abstract gets syndicated and appears alongside your headline in news readers and news apps. Summarize the key message of your release in 2–3 sentences.
Sample Abstracts (for the three headlines listed above):
Complementary benefit is designed to deliver access and funds to more than 1.6 million charities, exclusively for HR.com subscribers.
The Headache Hat™ wearable ice pack for migraines and headaches expands again this month by moving into retail stores, high profile flash sales, and distribution in Canada.
MyOutDesk has been recognized as the “Best” in their Industry by TechRadar for the third consecutive year. The acknowledgment by TechRadar is highly valued as it comes from one of the largest technology news and reviews sites in the world.
Notable Quote: Also known as a pull quote was introduced to the press release by McInnis’ PRWeb team in 2005. A pull quote is a key phrase, quotation, or excerpt that draws readers into your news release — and makes your news release more visually appealing. A pull quote is typically pulled from your news release copy and highlights the key message from your news. One sentence is sufficient.
Sample Pull Quotes (for the three headlines listed above):
We’re proud to team up with One Donation, create giving programs at scale, and lead this charge within the HR community.
The patented design provides long-lasting cold and targeted pressure on the pain points, unlike gel pack options that tend to warm quickly and don’t offer the pressure from the ice cubes.
My team and I are honored that MyOutDesk has received Best Virtual Assistant Services for 2022.
Release Date & Time: Online press releases should rarely be scheduled last minute. Allow yourself time to make any edits and optimize your release prior to distribution. At Newsworthy.ai, we recommend that you submit your release the day prior to its release. Ideally, schedule your press release to go live between 7 am and 9 am EST.
Location: The city and state/province where the news is being reported (Example: Vancouver, BC, Canada). This is typically the city and state of your primary corporate offices.
Content (News Release Body): Remember the persona section above? Answer those four questions. Keep it simple and avoid the overuse of industry jargon. When including jargon, your first instance should spell things out for your reader.
The minimum length for your press release should be 200 Words. While no upper limit exists, the recommended length is about 500 words.
Hyperlinks should be embedded hyperlinks and fully functional at the time of submission. Limit the number of hyperlinks to 1% of your release copy, or one link per 100 words. Add UTM tracking to your URLs, and use keywords in your link anchor text. Do not try and stuff too many keywords in your anchor text.
Some other tips:
- Written in the third person and free of direct address (i.e. “you,” “I,” “we,” etc.) unless used within a quotation or pull quote.
- Free of ‘hype flags’ (exclamation points; hyperbolic claims; descriptions of a product or service as ‘amazing’, or the use of upper case characters to create emphasis).
- Avoid language like “best in class” or language that implies superiority. Your product or service features should speak to those claims.
- When creating a list, limit your number of list items to 3 or 4 items.
- Free of HTML tags and non-standard characters, tables, or forced line breaks. Most HTML tags will be removed automatically resulting in a press release that is hard to read.
- Use of ### at the end of your press release is no longer required.
Images: An important, but often overlooked, component to press release success is image selection. Even when images are included, little thought is given to choosing the right image. There are three types of images found on press releases: the company logo, the news image, and the social banner.
- Social Image: A social banner is an important part of your press release optimization and success, and helps influencers and others share your content across social media platforms. Minimum Requirements include landscape orientation, 1200 pixels wide x 628 pixels high (aspect ratio 1:1.91), and a resolution of between 72 and 96 dpi (no more than 96 dpi). Avoid text, but if necessary, center all text and subject matter in the social banner. Note, on Newsworthy.ai the social banner image does not display on the visual news release. Instead, it is treated as an Open Graph image — an image that will automatically display and fit perfectly onto a social media post when the news release URL is shared (see image below).
- News Images: Landscape orientation is preferred with a minimum width of 500 pixels. Your primary news image should be in a .jpg format. Avoid .png images because Transparency layers do not always transfer correctly as images get resized and cropped — which may occur when press release newswire platforms send the releases to distribution partners. Lastly, do not use a company logo for your news image. Why? Two reasons. One, it looks bad and is not related directly to your news. Two, most newswires already display the company logo on the news release page (see image toward the end of this article, Anatomy of a Press Release). If you must use your company logo then consider incorporating your logo into your News image (like the example above).
Other image tips:
- Landscape mode is always best for your news image and social banner.
- No copy. Do not include text in your news image or social banner. You run the risk of having your message cropped as your release gets pushed around the internet.
- Photos of people. Look for images of people who are not looking at the camera. People that are doing something and making the activity seamless or effortless are best.
- When choosing images, consider the following. Shadows speak to present consequences. Silhouettes speak to future possibilities. Choose Silhouettes when possible.
Video: Embedded videos from a hosting service such as YouTube add tremendous value to your news release. At Newsworthy.ai there are no additional fees for including an embedded video URL. To locate the correct embed video URL, click Share, select the ‘Embed’ option and then grab the embed link only (see image below).
Target Topics or Categories: Select up to five relevant categories. Cross-posting to irrelevant topics is discouraged.
Public Online Drive URL: This is a feature unique to Newsworthy.ai. The use of a public “drive” URL is the perfect way to share files that are relevant to your news. Think about media swipe files, hi-res headshots, PowerPoint files, etc. By including a drive URL you have more control of what exists in the shared drive space than by attaching those assets directly to your press release. Public Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.com, and other such services are a great way to direct readers to additional information pertaining to your news.
Landing Page URL: The landing page URL should not be your company’s top-level domain (company.com). Instead, insert a link that directs readers to more information regarding the main topic of the release. Think of the Landing Page URL as the ‘tip of your funnel’. Examples: If you are launching a book, direct readers to a page where they can learn more about the book and purchase it. If the release is a new company hire, direct users to a bio of the new hire. UTM tracking links are recommended.
Release Contact: The name, email, phone of the individual that readers should contact if they have an interest in your news.
Piecing it All Together — The Anatomy
This image of a press release from Newsworthy.ai shows you how your various sections come together to form an online press release.
- Distribute your press release to a Newswire, a website platform that publishes and sends press releases out to different news websites. Of course, we recommend Newsworthy.ai. In addition to having all the checkboxes for what you want in a press release newswire platform, Newsworthy.ai has other tools to help you surface your news online, including an influencer marketplace.
- Frequency. Push out one press release every 28 days minimum. If you are not putting out at least one press release a month, your business is stagnant at best and irrelevant at worst.