Formatting Press Releases for Maximum Effectiveness

A recent discussion about press release templates on LinkedIn got me thinking about how releases are formatted – whether the communicator is simply hosting them on their organization’s web site, or distributing them via email and/or a wire service like PR Newswire.

All the basics still apply. The release should have a point, and tell the story succinctly.  It’s best if the obligatory exec quote in the middle of the release actually says something meaningful – don’t fall into the trap of being excited.  The inverted pyramid style and addressing the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, why) are still important. And, as always, good writing is a must.

Those basics aside, there are some key aspects you should consider when building a template for your web site or formatting a release for the wire. Here are some tips based on our experience here at PR Newswire. We have a pretty decent sample size of press releases on our site, and we’ve found some things that really work well in terms of increasing views of and interactions with press releases.

Visuals: I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is to accompany press releases with visuals, which I addressed in yesterday’s post (Pinning the Future of Communications on Visuals,) but at the risk of seeming redundant, I’ll emphasize this point again today. Visuals – photos, infographics, and videos – are important gateways to your content. PR Newswire’s own data shows unequivocally that press releases with multimedia get better results on our web site – and your own site will be no different. When people share/tweet/like/pin your press releases, the visuals will be front and center. Visuals also get extra attention from search engines.)

Sharing: Make it easy for readers to share your content. Embed buttons for social sharing, blogging and other interactions within your news release pages. When PRN moved key sharing buttons (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) from the right hand navigation to a more prominent position on the top of the page, we saw a significant increase in social shares.

Scannability”: As you build your template, you’ll want to be sure you have a template that is simple and ideally encourages use of subheads and bulleted lists, in order to give your readers the ability to scan the document and readily ascertain the key points. This tactic improves reader engagement. As a bonus, key pieces of text like headlines, subheads and key bullet points are often relayed on social networks.  Use bold text on your subheads, and don’t forget anchor text links, which draw the eye to key terms.

Contact information: This piece of advice comes from the team that builds and maintains our MediaRoom products (we host media and IR sites for clients.) Contact information needs to be at the top of the page, in a prominent position, and it needs to include a means to reach company contacts directly. Journalists and bloggers work in tight timeframes. They appreciate having ready access to your organization’s media contacts. This is not the place for a generic “email us” form.

Rendering:  Make sure the format you’re considering on your web site will render well when the content is posted to social networks.  You want to be sure that photos and videos are displayed visibly, and that the headline of the release translates as the headline people see when the release is shared on Facebook or pinned on Pinterest.

Press release formatting is undeniably a less-interesting topic. However, given the critical role the content our departments produce plays in social media and content marketing strategies, it’s worth spending time thinking about (and improving) the formats you’re using for your press releases, in order to wring every ounce of effectiveness from your efforts.

Do you have any formatting advice that’s worked for your your press releases? I’d love to hear about it!

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR, which we’ve updated for 2012.

2 responses to “Formatting Press Releases for Maximum Effectiveness

  1. I just got a great suggestion via Twitter from @JKageorge: “Skip the canned corporate descriptor from your lead paragraph (dump that speed bump).” Good one!

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