How to write the perfect press release for Digital PR
In PR, crafting press releases is part and parcel of your day-to-day task list.
That said, when you’re creating so many releases, it can sometimes be easy to fall into the trap of becoming formulaic and, let’s be honest, a little bit boring, yet at the same time you don’t want to compromise the strategies that work well for a bit of fleeting flare.
There are however some key attributes that should feature in almost every successful press release, so here I’ve compiled a list of my top tips for writing an engaging and successful Digital PR release.
Traditional vs Digital – what’s the difference?
There are significant differences between traditional and Digital PR as industries, but when it comes to press releases, they are pretty similar.
When I was first being trained on press release curation it was for traditional print publications rather than digital ones, and I was taught to follow a ‘trickle down’ method. This strategy includes ensuring the most important and interesting information is at the top of the release (in the opening paragraphs) before slowly trickling down to the arguably “less important” information at the end.
This structure works just as well in Digital PR as it does in traditional PR, as this approach ensures that journalists can easily and quickly find the best part of your campaign and once published, audiences with short attention spans will still read your key points too.
In all honesty, the most notable difference between press releases for traditional PR and Digital PR is the importance of link inclusion.
Obviously, links aren’t a concern at all in print, but if the purpose of your Digital PR activity is to support organic visibility, widen brand awareness within core audience groups or even improve the volume or strength of traffic (and ultimately conversions!) to your site, and your press release is the vessel in ensuring this activity goes to plan, you’re going to want to ensure you include a relevant link within the release itself.
What’s the perfect press release structure?
When you’re writing a press release, structure is just as important as content – there’s no point in creating the perfect campaign if it’s buried amongst waffle.
I’ve already mentioned the ‘trickle down’ structure, and this is the best way to order your talking points (whether those are statistics, facts, or quotes). Figure out which is most important and lead with that.
Don’t make the release too long. 800 words is a good length, much more than that and you should be looking at cutting out either embellishments or non-essential content.
You don’t want to lose your audience through too much unnecessary detail, but you also don’t want to overload them with too much information in one release – so for a standard release this length is a good guide to stick to.
Outside of length – the physical make up of your press release can be a key factor in journalists deciding to cover it. We all know that journalists are extremely busy, and that the more tailor-made content we can provide them with, the more likely we are to be featured.
If you’re targeting a specific dream publication or journalist, it’s a good idea to look to write your release in their usual style. That way a journalist will be able to easily pluck out the information they need and piece together their own article without too much need to edit. The easier you can make a journalist’s life, the better!
Inclusion of Quotes
If you want to include quotes, there are two different approaches you can take: either rounding out the piece with a longer opinion quote at the end or peppering short quotes throughout the release.
Both styles have a time and a place, with longer opinion-led quotes working well for data-led releases and short and frequent quotes working best for expert-led PR.
Introducing Your Brand
Bringing the brand to the forefront of any release is of course hugely important, but in Digital PR specifically its key to strike the balance between introducing the brand and getting to the main hook of the story.
Start with a short intro for the topic of the release that explains to the journalist why it is interesting and relevant to their readers, then move straight on to bringing in your brand.
Don’t introduce your brand too late – it’s a key part of the story!
It’s also always a good idea to add an image after the intro at the very least. It helps the journalist to picture what the article could look like online and can help catch the eye, making them more likely to read and share the release.
Finally, avoid long sentences and longer paragraphs. Keep it short and snappy, making full use of headings and subheadings to organise your content into short paragraphs and avoiding the long and intimidating blocks of text that people scroll straight past.
What makes a compelling headline?
I’m sure everyone will have experienced the extremes of headlines, those that aren’t interesting enough to make you click and read, and those that are very clearly clickbait.
As a PR, your job is finding the happy medium between the two. You want to keep it both short and snappy whilst ensuring that you can clearly sum up what the release is about in just a few words.
On the flip side, the headline also needs to be attention grabbing to pique interest so use buzzwords if you can and once again try to tailor it to the style of publication you’re targeting.
An example of this would be the red tops, which we know are renowned for loving a headline which incorporates wordplay, so if you’re targeting those journalists, you should embrace your best puns.
How can you use data to make an impact?
Data can be a fantastic way to make your point in a press release, and it’s always the best foundation to a good story yet working with data specifically can lead to a few hurdles.
Firstly, data points can often be confusing if they aren’t laid out correctly, and it’s imperative that the everyday reader is able to understand exactly what your analysis is telling them, so make sure each data point is clearly laid out and easy to digest.
One way of helping this is to use tables and graphs as visual aids. Especially if your campaign is using multiple data points, having them together in a neatly formatted table or a graph can be a really easy way to ensure clarity.
Secondly, when utilising data, always make sure that you’re keeping the language simple and tailored to the target audience. There’s no point in using technical jargon if the readers don’t know what it means as the value of the story will be lost.
Where does link building come in?
Whether it’s to support organic visibility, encourage more traffic to the site or to support sales of a specific product or service, gaining a link within coverage is a key target for any Digital PR press release.
With more and more no-linking policies, its hugely important that if you’re looking to acquire a link, you include one that genuinely adds further insight or substance to the piece. It’s imperative that any links included are natural and make sense within the context of the piece itself. For a journalist to want to direct readers away from their publication to somewhere else (which in essence is what a link does!) it must add genuine value to the piece.
Whilst inclusion of a homepage link will always make sense when it comes to introducing a brand or individual, often as a Digital PR you’ll be tasked with acquiring links to specific category or sub-category link.
Including more than one relevant link within the piece offers the opportunity for the journalist to choose which they feel is most relevant to them and their audience. And whilst it’s unlikely that a journalist will keep more than one link in the piece (it does happen sometimes!), they then have options on which one they believe best and most appropriate to include.
Some final tips:
1. Don’t over complicate things.
Use wording that is easy to understand, especially when it comes to any technical jargon – you want to write in a way that anyone reading will understand.
Make sure you check for spelling and grammar mistakes as you don’t want to put a journalist off with a small mistake. Having a strong peer review process in place can ensure no errors slip through the net.
Always double check the spelling for any names too – it might harm your relationship with the journalist if you must ask them to change the spelling of something and names aren’t always picked up correctly by spellchecker tools or autocorrect.
3. Remember your boilerplate.
You need to make sure your boilerplate includes absolutely everything a journalist might need, whether that’s a description of your brand and contact information should they need to get in touch, or the images that you want included in the release.
This is also the place to put your methodology, and it should be logical and easy to follow. The journalist should be able to replicate your approach by simply reading your methodology.
If you follow these tips then you’re halfway towards a successful press release every time – the other half is up to the always unpredictable whims of journalists, as always!
If you need any support designing a Digital PR strategy, then make sure to get in touch.
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