Today it is more important than ever to understand and appreciate the nuances of how authoring content for the web differs from old-school press release and marketing copywriting. Gone are the long and elaborate introductory paragraphs. As search engines treat the information at the beginning of a string (i.e. title or sentence) with greater importance than the copy that follows later, it is critical to be terse and to the point. Get your message across as efficiently as possible and you’ll be sure to reap the benefits of this new thinking. The way in which Twitter has become a real-time search engine further underscores the fact that brevity has its merits.
Get to the point. Make it clear from the get-go what your release is about. Don’t try to be cute. I used to get releases all the time from PR people who buried the news or tried to get creative with their writing. Sometimes, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what some releases were even about. If you’re looking for a creative outlet, press release writing is not the avenue. Try writing a short story.
At least pretend you’re objective. Obviously, you have a vested interest in what you’re writing about, but it’s still important to craft your releases like down-the-middle news stories. Avoid unnecessary adjectives; most adjectives are unneeded. You don’t want your release to read like an advertisement. Pick out the newsiest element and concentrate on that.
Speak English. I see releases all the time that are stuffed with industry jargon that most people do not understand. Don’t assume that what you’re writing about is a familiar subject for the people who’ll read your release. Dumb it down. Assume your release will be read by the densest guy in the room.
Send it out manually. Instead of just dumping your releases into submission sites and hoping someone important notices, email it yourself to media outlets and bloggers you think might be interested in it. If you’re publicizing a new product, send your release to newspapers in the company’s area. If you can, find out which reporters cover the relevant beat and send it to them directly; that usually only takes a phone call.
Have good timing. If you’re looking for coverage, sending your release out on Election Day or after hours on a Friday is goofy. Those are good times to release bad news you’re obligated to report – any White House spokesman will tell you that – but it’ll do you no good unless your story is wildly sensational. News outlets are typically more desperate for copy during the summer months and around holidays.
Act like a human. Interactivevoices’ post about getting a link from CNN.com – the only PR10 news site – illustrated this perfectly. There’s no harm in picking up the phone and calling reporters directly to see if they’re interested in your story. For all you know, the only thing preventing your news from being published is an over-finicky spam filter.
Don’t beg. When I was working as a reporter, I didn’t realize why some sources were so hellbent on me including links in my stories. Now I know. If your link is relevant to the story, the reporter will probably include it. If not, you’re still getting good publicity.
Of course, all of this will only help if you actually have something worthwhile to say. If you think there’s nothing interesting to say about your enterprise, you’re probably wrong. You just need to think long and hard to figure out what it is.
In the end, content generation is about providing value. Give you audience something they can use and they’ll be sure to be back for more.