By David McInnis, Founder Newsworthy.ai
I have read tens of thousands of press releases since 1997, the year I started PRWeb. Prior to PRWeb, nobody wrote press releases for an online audience. Press releases were written for journalists, largely by journalism graduates working at PR Firms. By 2000, it had become clear that things needed to change. The value of press release distribution began to shift from a media outreach tool to a direct-to-consumer communication strategy. The move has been away from media outreach to marketing communication.
What follows are my best four ideas to help you write more engaging press releases.
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.
My advice, become friends with your Marketing team. Invite them to your table when you discuss strategy. You are going to need their help. And you can do a lot for them.
Write to Personas
Throughout my journey with PRWeb and in online content marketing, I have had the opportunity to work closely with other digital marketing pioneers like Jefferey and Bryan Eisenberg who were responsible for much of the thought leadership around persona marketing. Prior to the acquisition of PRWeb by Vocus in 2006, I was working with the Eisenbergs on developing a Persuasion Architecture platform for news releases. This is what I discovered, writing to personas is the best way to get engagement.
Persona marketing does not need to be complicated. Sure you can spend time creating avatars and creating content specifically for each persona avatar. That gets complicated and tedious because you will find yourself creating content for as many as 16 different avatars.
Years later I met up with a publisher that shared a secret with me. I learned that every best-selling book spoke to at least two different personas. I learned that the sixteen personas (based on MBTI) could be grouped together into 4 macro personas; Methodical, Competitive, Spontaneous, and Humanistic. I also learned that you could reach each persona by answering one question, specific to the target persona.
Personas Architecture of PR (PAPR)
Note: This is a great content creation strategy for all digital content. Are you stuck and don’t know where to begin? Try answering these four questions.
Before you begin writing your press release. Answer the following questions. The answers to these questions will guide you in your writing.
- 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 success 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.
Use of 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 we accept at Newsworthy.ai, your company logo, the news image, and the social banner. The news image is included with your press release and the social banner is used when your release is shared through social channels.
You will need to work with your marketing department on this. Make friends over there.
Guidelines for press release images.
- Landscape mode is always best for your news image and social banner.
- Your logo is not your news image. Using your logo as a news image is silly and redundant.
- 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.
- Centered Content. Make sure that your main subject is centered in the frame. For the same reasons as the above rule, you want to avoid unfortunate crops.
- Social banner dimension, use FB dimensions of 1200 x 628.
- 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.
- Bonus. Make things really interesting and leave out color? Bring back monochrome occasionally.
Linking to Sites and Resources
These rules are basic and simple.
- No more than 1 link per 100 words of text.
- At least 1 link to an external resource. Link to a client page, wiki entry, LinkedIn profile, or supporting material. The important takeaway here is that this link does not point to your “stuff”.
- Link deep. Do not merely link to your homepage. Surface the content most relevant to your press release. Ask marketing to support you by creating a landing page.
- Add UTM tracking to your URLs. What is UTM Tracking?
- Use keywords in your link anchor text. Do not try and stuff too many keywords in your anchor text. Keep it short.
Don’t Forget the Basics
Some rules never change. These are the basic rules every press release should follow.
- Keep it simple. Avoid overuse of industry jargon. When including jargon, your first instance should spell things out for your reader.
- No first-person blather. Always write your press release in the third person. To the extent possible leave first-person out when quoting people. Avoid first-person everywhere. Including in your About section. Learn more here.
- Use of ### at the end of your press release is no longer required.
- 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.
I will leave it here for now. I have selected these tips because they will have the greatest impact on engagement with your news. Ultimately that should be your focus. Newsworthy.ai has other tools to help you surface your news online, including our influencer marketplace.