Why did you click on this article? I bet the headline had something to do with it. So many press releases display boring headlines ("Our Company Is Going To Attend An Obscure Sales Conference Somewhere") and even more lifeless copy in the body of the release. This is not the sort of story that ends up on the front page of The New York Times. It isn't the sort of thing that gets argued about on The View.
Below, you will find the secrets I have learned over the years--I've sent many releases, some good and some bad--and if I had known these tips from day one, it would have saved me a lot of time.
Shorter Is Better
Many companies and individuals think that a press release is the opportunity to give every conceivable fact about the organization--when you were founded, your CEO's middle name and hobbies, your company's "vision." This is simply wrong; a press release like this is the equivalent of stopping someone in an elevator, handing him a copy of your novel, and demanding he read the whole thing in front of you. Instead, treat a press release as a teaser or elevator pitch--something you could comfortably say to someone in about 30 seconds to one minute. If you need to give more information, you can always link to an information-rich PDF file or longer release on your website.
"A good press release should be between 200 and 400 words," says Todd Pree, owner of Mass Media Distribution LLC. "The shorter the better. The idea is to have just enough info to get the reporters excited and ask for an interview."
Just as you wouldn't give someone a three-hour lecture in order to get a phone number at the bar, you don't need a 1,000-word release to get booked on a radio or TV show. Keep it short, accurate and intriguing; respect the journalist's time. As an example, check out this very typical release showing how personal buzz tactics can help you keep your job in a bad economy. No one in the media cared and the response was minimal.
Now check out this second attempt with a new angle. The release still deals with recession/job issues, but now I'm suggesting people quit if the job is less than ideal. The media found this unusual and the response was massive. Check out the resulting segment on ABC News.
Here's a recent release for a client of mine--a personal trainer calls out "The Biggest Loser" reality show for portraying inaccurate and unrealistic fitness goals. The response from media was predictably good, with calls coming in from an ABCNews.com reporter and radio bookers.
Keep It Easy
Do follow proper press release guidelines--this means not claiming your company or product is "the best" or "world famous" or anything amateur like that. If your product truly is world famous, you should not have to state that. And if it isn't, don't pretend it is--this will just annoy journalists. Also, provide clear contact information in your release: an e-mail and phone number work best. You don't want a TV booker to have to sift through hundreds of documents simply to find out whom to contact--no one has the patience for that.
Capitalize on Long-Term Search Engine Traffic
Many people are posting press releases these days partially to boost traffic. A press release can be a great way to increase the organic traffic you get from Google and other search engines. Also, most press release services spend a lot of time on search engine optimization and rank well in search results.
According to VisiblePR.com, a free search engine optimization tool for press releases, your press release body should contain 3 percent to 5 percent keywords. So if your release is about gun control and the body copy is 100 words long, the phrase "gun control" should be in there at least three times, but no more than five times.
Your press release headline, on the other hand, can have up to 15 percent to 20 percent keyword density. For example, "Organization Fights to Protect Second Amendment Rights" is a terrible headline, because the phrase gun control is not even in there. The headline "Organization Fights Gun Control" is far more likely to result in successful search engine placement.
Aside from organic traffic, search engine optimization will also result in radio and TV bookings possibly months after your release is sent out and long after you have forgotten about it. A rushed morning TV show booker may search on Google for "gun control experts" only to find your well-written, opinionated and informative release appearing on the first page. You would be the perfect person for her to contact, so be prepared at all times for that phone call.
Persistence Is Key
As Pree explains, "It takes many attempts to fine-tune your message to make it interesting . . . Most of the customers that we have had featured in large media outlets were the result of multiple press releases that were constantly refined."
If you truly believe in a press release, don't be afraid to stick by it for a while. It took me several attempts with my "Quit Your Job in a Recession" press release--the third try, for whatever reason, resulted in a storm of newspaper articles, radio interviews and even a television appearance on ABC News. If you hang in there, you can get even more press than that. Persistence is crucial.