How to Use the Modern Press Release

I’ve learned one important thing about press releases. A great press release is not something that prompts a journalist to write an article; rather, a great press release is published as an article. While that may be an abstraction outside of the most time-strapped of reporters, many times the better your press release, the more of it ends up verbatim in the resulting article.

So stop writing press releases, and start writing news stories. Not sure how to start? Let’s role-play a bit.

You are the reporter, and you are writing an article, because that’s your job. What is it about this random company, blog, or event that makes for a great news piece?

What’s the story, the hook, the angle? How can this piece advance your career as a journalist? Why in the world would anyone other than the attention-seeking schlep possibly care?

If you can’t figure those things out, don’t write the article, and don’t send the release. It’s that simple, because an actual reporter will cast an even more jaundiced eye at your pitch.

It’s the New Style

So what’s new with press releases? Well, the modern press release is different because it actually does get published as is. In other words, thanks to online PR services, your press release automatically becomes web content, which means it has a shot at automatically becoming news.

For example, let’s look at the PRWeb Direct service. For a measly $119 you get inclusion in Google News, Yahoo News and MSN News, a page one link on the PRWeb home page, targeted pay per click ads, and RSS distribution. And, oh yeah, journalists get to see it too.

Plus, PRWeb releases now come with link trackbacks enabled. Yes, the tired old press release has just allowed itself to go viral.

No cash? You can distribute press releases for free, too.

Fantastic, right? No more jaundiced-eyed reporters standing in between you and loads of sweet publicity? Well, perhaps, but now you’re facing another tough crowd.

Even Better Stories, or Don’t Bother

The story in your press release (sorry, make that article) must be better than ever. You may see the lack of a reporting intermediary as a good thing, but at least it’s a reporter’s job to dig through drivel looking for news nuggets. Your average information-hungry consumer won’t stand two seconds for dry, self-indulgent marketing babble. So don’t bother.

You can’t just tell any old story, either. You’ve got to present something of real value that also prompts additional action, like a visit to your blog or a request for more information. Heck, maybe even a purchase. Check out The Structure of Persuasive Content for tips.

The press release is now a direct marketing vehicle (check out direct marketer Jim Logan’s take on it). And great copywriting had better be behind the wheel.

Some people refer to direct press releases as “SEO-PR” (a marketing term more contrived than “Web 2.0” could ever hope to be). Outside of keywords in your headline, press releases should be no more about search engine optimization than blogging is – you write for people first, and let the search engine chips fall where they may.

The thing is, if you write something that people think is great, you just might be able to cash in on those chips. For more on this, check out SEO Copywriting is Dead.

OK, ready to learn how to implement the modern press release strategy? Read The New Rules of PR by David Meerman Scott, a 21-page PDF download that teaches you how to create a smart press release strategy for reaching readers and buyers directly.

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