Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Modern Day Press Release

It took me four years of higher education to obtain my degree in English writing--not so long when considering the bigger life picture. During that time, I expect I was taught a good deal of the latest trends in writing and journalism. I graduated something like four years ago, and have to say that it never fails to amaze me how much has changed since I received that degree. Four years just doesn't seem that long ago for so much change.

When it comes to writing, the press release is no exception to all this change. What makes the modern day press release look so different? The answer is simple: the internet. Today's small businesses have the opportunity to gain the kind of exposure that larger corporations could only attain before the "world wide web" came about. It's this kind of exposure that makes the online press release different than the traditional.

Some things still remain the same between the two. For example, all the points I bring up in the Elements of a Good Press Release remain the same. It's not advertising, it should be adequately proofread, and a journalistic style of writing should be implemented.

So what's so different? Well, the main difference can be summed up with two words in particular: keyword optimization. An online press release is meant to increase rankings and drive traffic to your site. As with any SEO article, you need to consider which words people would most likely use to find your web site, always making sure that they appropriately describe the service, or product you are offering on your site. For example, if your press release claims you write press releases as a service, but all you actually do is edit, then don't use "write press release" as a key phrase. I guess I speak the obvious here, but nobody wants to find exactly the service they are looking for only to learn they have been tricked.

Another great difference is the inclusion of live links. You can include links in a traditional press release, but the link's worthless unless you go to your computer turn it on and manually insert it in your search engine - not a big deal or major amount of trouble, but many people would rather not be bothered. Here you can effortlessly click your way to the site of interest to learn more about the topic at hand. How convenient is that!

The most recent change in press releases which I'm sure will become even more popular in the near future is the use of podcasts with your press release. This is simply a short audio segment that highlights the most important part of the release. If done informatively, promptly, and professionally enough this new tool is sure to help you make the most of your press release.

The traditional press release is surely not extinct with the dinosaurs, nor will it ever be an endangered species as long as we have traditional forms of media, but the online press release is definitely a creature of its own. Thus it should be treated as such. Be sure to do your homework and know the differences.

This concludes my series on the press release. I hope you enjoyed it, and most of all took something useful with you. Until next time, have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Elements of a Good Press Release

Merely writing a press release does not guarantee that an editor will distribute it. As you go about crafting your press release, there are some important stylistic points to keep in mind if you don't want your press release to be rejected.

(1) I mentioned this the other day, but it bares repeating again: It is not an advertisement. Do not tell your readers what to do: "You should buy this product because..." or "You must go visit the new..." It is meant to convey important information relevant to the business, organization, or person it represents. Ask yourself if your topic is new, interesting, unusual, relevant, and important in some way.

(2) If you want someone to follow up on your press release after it has been distributed be sure to cover your bases. List a reliable contact person, their phone number, and email address. What good will a contact person be if he (a) is unfamiliar with the subject, or (b) is not around to be called?

(3) Be considerate and send the release on time. Give editors the time they need to distribute it - preferably at least a day prior to when you would like it released. Include the release date on the press release itself. Remember that these people are busy so respect them by not waiting until the last minute.

(4) Understand clearly the media's definition of news. Answer the who, what, where, why, when, and how within the body. Be clear, concise, and factual with your information. Sentence length should be about 20 words, avoid the passive, and write short paragraphs.

(5) Include a short headline to summarize the contents of the release.

(6) Avoid puffery like, "World renowned artist comes..." If an artist is world renowned it doesn't need to be stated. Your reader will know. Words like famous, prominent, wonderful etc should not be used.

(7) Proofread, proofread, proofread. This cannot be stressed enough. Nobody will take you seriously if you don't take the time to make sure it is error free.

There's a lot to remember when crafting your news release, but these are a few important points. Hope they help get yours distributed!

Have a great day!

What is a Press Release?

Journalism 101

Because I have suddenly become rather busy writing press releases, I thought it might be fun to focus my blog on that subject for a few days. There seems to be no better place to begin than with the simple question, "What is a press release?"

A press release, or news release, is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media to announce something newsworthy. It can be mailed, faxed, or sent via internet communications to newspaper editors, magazines, radio and television stations/networks, or even distributed online.

Despite what some may think, a press release is not advertising. It may have the secondary benefit of drawing more business to a company or increasing sales of a product or service, but it is meant only to announce something with true news value, and perhaps increase exposure for the company.

Once the release is received by the chosen form of media, the editor decides whether or not it is newsworthy enough to run and if they have the space to run it in. If they feel it is, there is often a specified date on which the company would like it distributed. For example, time sensitive information, such as an announcement of a conference with related times and dates, might have "For Immediate Release" written to indicate it needs to be announced right away. Conversely, it may be written days, weeks, or even months ahead of the event and distributed on a very specific date.

It absolutely should not be boring. It should be a nicely crafted article that informs the reader of something. And as with any piece of writing, it should always have a headline that grabs your attention - something with a flare that makes the reader keep reading, an important task with all the written competition available these days. You want your reader to take some valuable information away with him.

So there you have it, a brief introduction to what a press release is. My next entry will focus on the stylistic elements of a good press release. Hope to see you back!

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Brand New Season

It's hard to believe that I am almost through my first trimester of pregnancy! These last several weeks have been filled with very little nausea, plenty of fatigue, and an absolutely voracious appetite! Now as I get ready to move into the next phase of my pregnancy, I am happy to say the nausea is nearly non-existent, the fatigue is lessoning, and the hunger (I guess I can't have it all) is ever present and growing! Just like baby! What more could I ask for?

Danielle is back to school and adjusting well to seventh grade, and Chloe has begun her fall line up, including a gym class for tots, dance, and tumbling. We are preparing for fall weather and have even had a small taste of it the last few days. I love fall. I love to watch the changes. Brilliant leaves appear as God's very own color palette here on earth. The sight is amazing, the smell is nostalgic, and the crunch under my feet is nothing less than fun! On cold days, I love to savor the scent of a spicy candle and enjoy the warm glow in the absence of the sun.

Life is good, isn't it? We obediently ride along with the cycles of life. We learn to love the predictable way that things occur-- even to look forward to the changes. I guess we really have no choice, but life is still good, and the coming of the new season makes me want to write even more.

Good thing, because I have all the sudden become inundated with lots of writing work. I have two articles to write, five press releases, and one newsletter to write for, edit, and assemble, all within the next week. So I will be busy. But I must say that in between moments of writing, and raising my family, I will not forget to take the time to savor the the fall season and all the beautiful things changing in my life! I hope you will do the same in yours!

Have a wonderful day!