Read Before Sending out Your Press Releases: The Guidelines

Yesterday, I received a comment at my press release distribution sites list.

Lenin,

One factor not included in your list is which sites are indexed by Google News. You can check this by going to Google News and doing a search such as site:BigNews.biz (just swap out the URL for whatever site you want to check on) this will check to see if the press releases from that site are listed in Google News. Many are not, and Google news can drive a huge amount of traffic.

The suggestion made through the comment is very valuable and I pointed out it in my reply. You have to check and see if the press release site is actually listed in Google News before working with it. It is a good indication of how valuable the site is. Here we have some guidelines for writing effective press releases, as well as some press release templates from the Microsoft Office and Open Office galleries.

What Is a Press Release for?

A press release is any news announcement made by an entity, including individuals, private and public companies, and non-profit organizations, as to any major change in their products and services. This is what a press release is distributed for. What it is not for is spamming.

We know that the Web is going to be the most important medium of communication in the coming years, and so will it be for marketing and promotion. Major newspaper sites are there on the Web already, and most of the minor print newspapers are suffering from the tremendous growth of the Web. At this point, it is definitely worthy to promote products and services online through online press releases.

But we can see that several people are actually misusing this facility and are using press release distribution sites for spamming, to get some visitors to their sites by the enormous popularity a distribution can give. This will not work most of the time, merely due to the fact that the major press release sites do not allow distribution of spam. Follow these guidelines to make effective press releases.

Press Release Content Guidelines

1. Are You Distributing the News?

The main purpose of a press release is to let the world know about anything new out there. If you are offering any new product or service or a major change, then a press release is definitely in order. However, what if you wrote a new post on your blog about tweaking Windows Vista? That's not to be distributed as a press release. It's not newsworthy.

2. The Title/Headline

Headline of the press release best speaks of its content. So, have a catchy title that gives your readers good information and a hook to read the release further and also check out your site. The title is where you presell your product.

3. Images/Illustrations?

Images and illustrations within your press release can be a great way to engage with your readers. People will find it easy to understand and evaluate the content of the release if there are associated images.

4. Facts and Only Facts

Press release is to be distributed to media sites, and they are ulitmately for the consumers to read. So, if you purport any falsehood in your distribution, you will be in trouble. There is always gonna be reviews and comments about the product/service offered, and the press release should conform to them. So, be truthful about whatever claim you make.

5. Exaggeration

Overly promotional press releases are not usually accepted by professional press release sites. Even if accepted, they only show a substandard way of communicating with your consumers. The news media exist for a no-sided approach of review. So, you should make sure that you have looked at your release from a consumerist eye before submission.

6. Beware of Your Language

It doesn't hurt to engage a professional to pen your submissions. A professional press release should be free of obvious grammatical and sentence structure errors. Also, make sure you use mostly active voice.

7. Argot/Tech Jargon

Jargon is the vocabulary used by specialized group—technical and other specialized publications. Such words may not be understood well be by the normal people. So, it is always best to edit your content for a layperson before submission.

8. Write It for the Media

A press release is obviously not a normal article like the one you are reading. It should be like a news article. You can become good press release writers by reading regular news from popular news sources. There is an unbiased style of writing that news sites follow.

Press Release Formatting Tips

Here are some tips on how to correctly format a press release.

1. No All Upper Case Anywhere

You should not have any word or sentence with all letters in upper case. The title should be correctly capitalized. Here are the rules of capitalization. A sentence fully in upper case is regarded to be shouting in the Net etiquette. So, AVOID SENTENCES LIKE THIS IN YOUR SUBMISSIONS.

2. Read the Site Guidelines of Formatting

Most of the press release sites will have their own formatting guidelines in place. Some may require you to place anchor text links, while some others may want only the direct URL. Some will allow you to use HTML formatting, while others may require plain text. So, check your site's guidelines of formatting before submission.

3. Paragraphing

You should not format a complete press release in a single paragraph. Break it up in as many paragarphs as necessary. Here are some guidelines for good paragraph structure.

4. Include Any Contact Details

Press release sites will have guidelines as to which contact details to post in your submission. Some may tell you to put your email address, while some other may ask you to put your full address in the release. Most of them require you to place a paragraph about your company or business with contact information at the bottom of the release. Also, don't forget to include the company website URL.

Sample Press Releases

Here are some sample press releases published by professional companies:

Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006: from Apple
Adobe and Mozilla Foundation to Open Source Flash Player Scripting Engine: from Adobe Systems Inc.
World Wide Web Consortium Issues RDF and OWL Recommendations: from W3C.org, the World Wide Web Consortium

Press Release Templates for Download

Microsoft offers some templates for different types of press releases from their gallery. It is useful for MS Word users. Access the gallery here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT101439021033.aspx

Here is a gallery for the Open Office users: http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/project/TemplatePack_II

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008

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