Marketing for small businesses: how to write a successful online news release

online press releaseThe benefits of writing online news releases

Written and distributed correctly, online news releases can be an effective marketing tool for your business. News releases can:

  • Keep your customers, potential customers and industry contacts informed of developments within your business
  • help drive traffic to your site, since fresh, relevant, quality content improves SEO
  • build credibility and awareness of your brand.

When to use news releases and what to write about

Traditionally press releases were sent or faxed to key media contacts and fingers crossed, they would be picked up by a journalist and published through traditional media channels. The web has changed all that by providing businesses with the opportunity to widen their news release audience – enabling their releases to directly reach customers, prospective customers, news sites, bloggers and search engines as well as journalists.

In ‘New Rules of Marketing and PR’ (Scott,D.M 2010) Scott suggests that businesses should:

  • Send news releases frequently – not only when there is really big news
  • Create releases that appeal directly to buyers – not just a small group of journalists
  • Write releases using copy that is rich in keywords and phrases
  • Optimise news release delivery for searching and browsing

So what should you proactively be writing about? For a press release to be newsworthy, the ‘news’ doesn’t always need to be huge. For example you could write a timely news release on:

  • the launch of a new product, feature or service
  • an upgrade to a feature, product or service
  • a new business partnership or affiliation
  • market research findings
  • a new employee announcement
  • company news such as expansion, a special event, a move to new premises, the receipt of an award or anniversary
  • community involvement such as working alongside the community or a charity.

Standard news release format

The format for a news release is fairly standard. Press release distribution agencies may vary the format slightly, but the key elements remain the same. Make sure you follow a standardised format as it will give your release credibility and increase the chances of getting it picked up and published. A typical format would include:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  These words should appear in the top left hand corner of your release

Headline:  This needs to grab readers attention so make it  strong and engaging – but try to keep it short (remember search engines have limits to the number of characters they display in a headline)

Dateline:  For example: Bristol, UK, 1st October 2013

Body:

Opening paragraph. This should be a short, lead paragraph that captures your reader’s attention and  tells the reader succinctly what your news is – remember the who, what, when, where, why rules.

Centre paragraphs. This is where you tell your news release story. Use statistics and resources here to support your release.

Final Paragraph – This is a summary paragraph where you restate the key points of your overall press release. You can also provide an opportunity for the reader to obtain more information.

Boiler Plate:  This contains the background information about the companies or organisations featured in the press release

Contact information: This should include contact person, company name, phone, fax, email and actual address

### or ENDS:  This indicates that it is the end of the release

Do’s and Don’ts when writing a press release

Do keep it in third person and write objectively

Do keep sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Remember your press release should be between 300-800 words – no longer

Do use headings and sub headings

Do proofread your release. Check and double-check for grammar and spelling mistakes

Do keep it professional –  a news release is not the place for informal communication

Do include supporting resources –  such as relevant statistics, quotes, infographics and links to source materials

Do use images, graphics, and bullet points to break up text

Do use keywords and phrases that are relevant to your topic area

Don’t  use the words ‘I’, ‘we’ and ‘you’ unless it’s within a quotation – remember you are not writing sales or marketing copy.

Don’t use  a news release as an advertisement  tool

Don’t  keyword stuff  or use excessive links (search engines will pick up on this as spam)

Don’t include any information that isn’t timely or accurate

Don’t use excessive technical or industry jargon (if you do remember you are writing for a broad audience so explain jargon where necessary)

Don’t put email addresses in the body of the press release (search engines will pick up on this as spam)

Don’t use all CAPITAL letters, exclamation points or deliberately exaggerated words (such as ‘amazing’ or ‘astonishing’)  to emphasise anything

Distributing your online news release

You can distribute your own press releases by building up a database of relevant industry contacts. Alternatively you could use a press release distribution company, such as PRWEB, Businesswire or  Online PR Media. They will distribute your news release to their large networks of news sites and search engines on your behalf.

You should also make sure you have a news or press release area on your website. This is where you put your releases, ideally in date order with latest news at the top. Then proactively promote your news release to your customers. For example put a link to the latest news on your news page in your email newsletter and on your social media sites.

Content, Content, Content…

Essentially a successful press release comes down to quality content. It is only through providing newsworthy, relevant and engaging content that your release will get found, read, posted on Facebook, retweeted and blogged about.

 

We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

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