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How to write a press release - format and distribution tips.

It's been a long while since I found it necessary to write a press release; but through another project I've been working on over the last month, I revisited this often ignored web marketing strategy.

While I'll never make headhunted by CNN or the New York Times for a journalist or news editor position; I was very happy with the attention the press release received, so I thought I'd pass on some tips about format and distribution to our visitors and subscribers.

Recommended Press Release Service:
   PRWeb Press Release Newswire - Get Started Now

Same day press release service, broad
coverage, great tools and tips,
free editorial review & much more!

What is a press release?

In terms of marketing, it's basically just a story that may interest the general public or a market segment relating to your business or organization. The format is a cross between an article and an ad - very similar to the 'adarticle' strategies that I've written about before. A press release tends to be more objective than promotional copy and is often in interview format. The usual marketing hype is definitely a no-go zone.

A press release is submitted to media distribution outlets in the hope that they will run with the story or request an interview. Press releases are the lazy way that news services gather stories :).

What are the benefits?

Rapid coverage:
As news is all about currency; the chances are that your press release will be distributed very quickly if it appeals. After submission, expect some initial results within 24 hours of distribution.

Ongoing promotion:
Most services archive releases; so it's an ongoing form of promotion. Search engines may pick up on the release when it is published on other sites. This creates another avenue for people to find you and to possibly improve your search engine rankings through link popularity factors.

Journalists love search engines; so even as your release becomes dated, you may be still contacted by them in relation to other stories they are working on.  

If a respected media outlet or industry authority picks up your news item and publishes it, the readers of that service will immediately feel that your company is credible - an element vital in turning leads into clients.

Extra content for your site:
Any release that you create can also be included in a separate section on your site. It creates a good impression on your visitors and clients, provides ready information for journalists who may stumble upon your site and acts as excellent search engine fodder. 

Press release distribution?

There are many services that act as distribution points for press releases, but most of them will charge a fee to distribute your news item to journalists and news editors. A few of the better known services are PRWeb, PRNewsWire and MarketWire.

PR Web, which provides excellent coverage at a very low price. Features include:

  • Distribution on the same day

  • PR Web and eMediawire Distribution 

  • Attach graphics and multimedia

  • RSS/XML/OPLM/NewsML inclusion 

  • Yahoo search marketing inclusion

  • Google news inclusion 

  • Yahoo news inclusion 

  • MSN news inclusion 

  • Quick statistics 

  • Up to 10 industry targets 

  • Free editorial review  

PRWeb also offers valuable tips on their site to help you with press release development and submission. The company is one of the oldest online press release distribution agencies around, with 100,000 contacts, industry analysts and freelance journalists in their databases. It's a great service well worth checking out.

The other way to find places that will accept your news item is to search via your favorite search engine like so:

"submit press release", "industry segment"

.. substituting "industry segment" with your target market. You'll be surprised by the number of places that will accept newsworthy items - after all, it's free content for them!

What's considered newsworthy?

Well, it's definitely not just telling everyone how great you and your products are. 

Items that would be considered newsworthy include:

  • Your business sponsoring a charity event.

  • Implementing/developing a new product that addresses a specific need.

  • Merging or partnering with another well known business.

  • Gaining a contract with a large company.

  • Results of research you've carried out.

  • Awards and industry/community recognition

How to write a press release

The format and pitch of a news release is vastly different to traditional promotional copy. Terms such as "visit us today", "buy me now" or "discount prices" will see your press release headed straight for the recycle bin, as will WORDS IN CAPITALS and the unnecessary use of exclamation marks.

The best way to learn the format you should aim for release is to watch your local news or read a paper where a company is being mentioned in a positive way - steer clear of Enron stories :). 

After reading/watching/listening to this kind of coverage for a while, you'll notice similarities. 

Especially effective items you should include in a press release:

  • Quotes from a company representative - interview style is very effective.

  • Statistics - people love stats!

  • Information relating to how, what, when, where and why.

Press release format

The format of a press release is quite straightforward:

Release instructions 
Include in a few words directives  as to when the information can be released e.g. "For immediate release" or "for release on October 30, 2008" 

Contact information 
This is usually for the use of the company whom you are submitting to. Include:

Contact Person
Company Name
email address

Short, attention grabbing line. Do not use exclamation marks, marketing hype or references to selling.

An extension of the headline and consolidation of the body. Just a couple of sentences outlining the major points.

Always start the first sentence in the following format:

City, State (or country), Month, Day, Year - 

..then launch into the story itself. Ensure that the date you use is current when submitting. Media outlets won't want what would appear to be old news. Keep your sentences short and use paragraphs every 5-6 lines if possible. The body should not exceed 500 words.

Further information 
Where readers of the press release can gain further details e.g. your web site.

Include a sentence about your company.

Remember to skip a line between sections and save in a generic format, such as a plain text file.

Recommended Press Release Service
   PRWeb Press Release Newswire - Get Started Now

Broad coverage, comprehensive
tools at a fraction of the price
of other press release distribution services!

Press release format sample and template

Putting all of the above together, the following is a sample press release you could use as a basic template for writing your own.

-----Press release sample template begins-----


Your Name
Your Company Name
Your Telephone Number
Your Email Address
Your Company URL

Here Is Your Press Release Headline

Here is the summary which is just a couple of sentences highlighting what the press release is about. The summary may be shown as a snippet which is linked to the full article, so it needs to especially enticing in order to get the journalist or general reader to click through to read more.

(Your City), (Your State), (Current Date Or Date Of Release) - This first paragraph should be hard hitting, drawing the reader in with a taste of what the rest of the press release contains. Keep sentences short and don't make outrageous claims. 

As we move into the body of the press release, you can start going into more detail, describing who you are, what you're so excited about, how it benefits others and how others can obtain or benefit from whatever it is you're selling or promoting.

Again, use short sentences and short paragraphs, rather than just a big blob of text. There needs to be enough content to provide a good overview of your products and services, so aim for around 500 words minimum. Keep puffery to a minimum - the focus should be on information rather it being an overt sales pitch. 

It's also wise to have a "human" element to the press release, such as a quoted statement from your company's CEO or even from yourself.

The final paragraph should contain how readers can obtain additional information or briefly mention a special offer, without over hyping it.

ABOUT (Your Company) - Just a brief summary of your business; a couple of lines maximum. If you're well established, mention how long you've been around for and the types of goods and services you offer.

- END -

-----Press release sample template ends-----

A well crafted press release in the correct format may take you a full day to create; but given the immediate and ongoing benefits to be had, it's definitely a worthwhile investment of your marketing time.

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
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