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Author: Sarah Osborne
Back in the 1980?s (you know that time when parachute pants and Members Only jackets where in vogue) writing a press release was left to the seasoned marketing and public relations professional whose main goal was to get their clients “press”. However, many of those press releases did little to capture the attention of editors at local newspapers or television stations. I know, because I was one of those editors filing press releases daily into the circular bin. (Yes, I had parachute pants!)
Twenty years later, press releases are still hitting the bin, but now it’s the recycle bin or the spam folder of a desktop computer. Ironically, after years of being a part of the television news business, I find myself on the other end of the press release game- I’m writing them! But the rules of the game have drastically changed thanks largely to the internet. But the reason to write a press release, in my opinion, still should stay the same.
Press release writers are now employed by more than just public relations and marketing firms. Website development companies are now getting into the press release game. And their focus is not for traditional coverage by members of the press but for search engine attention. Writers for these companies are composing releases and paying to have them posted with companies like PR web who then distribute them to other websites, hoping for search engine hits. These companies even offers tools to help writers get their press releases to the top of search engines by telling them what “key-words” to use.
But beware my fellow press release writers or those who are entering the press release game; crafting a release just for search engine optimization is dangerous. Instead, I believe you need to take a step back and craft a press release for its original purpose -¦to get press. A GOOD press release is something that prompts a journalist to write an article. But a GREAT press release IS an article. So here is my challenge to you, stop writing releases for just search engine optimization and start writing news stories.
First you need to start with the basics, do you have something that is even worth writing a press release about. Lets role play.
You are the reporter, and you are writing an article for the local newspaper or creating a story for the 10 p.m. news. What is it about this random company, person, product or event that even makes it even a story? What’s the hook, the angle? Why in the world would anyone care? Can it change someone’s life, make it easier, save them money or keep them safe?
A mistake that is often made in the development of a press release is the misunderstanding that a press release is an advertisement. It must be understood that even though a press release can assist a company in acquiring customers, it should not be your focus. The primary purpose of your press release is to deliver a newsworthy story about a company to the reader.
I believe, if you can’t figure those things out, don’t write the article, and don’t send the release. It’s that simple.
Sarah Osborne is an Emmy and Gracie award winning television journalist with over 20 years in the business. In addition to writing press releases, she is the Executive Producer of the national television show “Moment of Luxury” on PBS.