Press Releases: Which Of These Rookie Mistakes Are You Making?

    by Dharmesh Shah

    Date

    June 2, 2008 at 2:36 PM

    Press releases continue to be a staple of the marketing and PR world.  The value of a press release (in terms of generating actual press) is debatable.  But, I think there's still some value to them and that's likely why so many companies (particularly B2B companies) still use them.

    One thing I have been surprised by is the number of simple mistakes people make when crafting a press release.  I'm not talking about the content itself, but the structural aspects of a press release  The stuff that's easy to fix.  The stuff that reduces the value you could get be getting from press releases if you don't get them right.

    If you're going to write press releases, might as well get the basics right.

    I'm a simple-minded guy, but my thinking is that if you're going to go to to the trouble of writing and publishing press releases, might as well spend just a little time to get the basics right and squeeze whatever value possible out of your press releases.  And, before I forget, a quick note that we recently released a simple tool called Press Release Grader that checks just about all of these basics for you and gives you a grade and a report.  If you're writing press releases, you should check it out.  Oh, and by the way, it's free (at least for now).  Thousands of people have already tried out the tool -- despite being in beta and only released a few days ago.

    Basic Tips for Better Press Releases

    1.  Add Links:  Press releases are not just for the press.  You're likely going to be publishing your releases on your website.  You may even submit your releases to one of the wire services.  Somehow, the content of your release is likely going to be out on the Internet.  As a result, you should have links back to your company website within the press release. 

    2.  Optimize SEO With Keywords-Rich Links:  Not only should you have links to your company website, you should craft the "link text" (or "anchor text") of some of these links so that they contain relevant keywords for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes.  For example, if you are in the internet marketing software business, you would have a link in your press release somewhere such that the text of the link has internet marketing in it.  On a related note, the page that you are linking to should have some matching keywords in its page title and meta description.  But that's a different topic (and a different tool -- check out WebsiteGrader, our free website analysis tool .)

    3.  Put The First Link Early In The Release:  Try to get at least one of your links reasonably early in the content (like the top third).  The reason for this is that when releases get picked up by aggregators or services, they often only include just the first paragraph or two on the "first page".  The rest gets automatically placed into a subsequent page with a "read more" link.  The SEO value is higher on the primary page. 

    4.  Include A Contact Phone Number:  On the off-chance that some journalist or blogger somewhere does indeed read your press release and is interested in writing about your company, you should make it as easy for them as possible to contact someone.  This is obvious.  No more needs to be said.

    5.  Include Email Address:  An increasing number of people that might write about you would prefer to send you an email with some quick questions (rather than go to the trouble of trying to coordinate a phone call).  Give them a contact email address.  For some reason, a low percentage of press releases seem to include email contact info. 

    6.  Include an "About YourCompany" Section: Most press releases contain an "About" section at the bottom of the release.  Although doing so is not a big deal, many people that look at press releases are used to scanning for this particular section of the release to learn more about the organizations mentioned.  Make it easy for these people to find what they're looking for.  And yes, might as well call it "About YourCompany".  There's no reason not to.

    7.  Add an "End of Content" Marker:  This one's a bit technical (but very easy).  Long ago, many of the wire services used a special character, sequence "###" (or "-30-") at the end of the release.  The purpose of this was to be able to tell when the "official" part of the release ended.  Although some might argue that this is not important anymore, I'd still argue that there are software systems (and people) that look for this.  Make it easy for them and just add it in.  It's easy, and there's no reason not to. 

    Those are my basic tips. 

    Have a basic press release tip for us?  Win our gratitude, and a $100 Amazon gift certificate

    If you have any basic tips or best practices for press releases, please leave them in the comments.  We'll pick the best three at the end of this week and I'll do my best to code them into Press Release Grader this weekend.  No purchase necessary, void where prohibited and all that.

    And, if you disagree with any of these tips, would love to hear from you as well.  If your argument is particularly cogent, you could win too.   

     

     


     


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