A great press release is an incredibly powerful tool for any online marketer. Although they may not be the coolest, newest thing on the block (think Vine, Infographics, Pinterest and the like) they are a consistent presence. The best thing about a great PR is that is bridges the gap between online and offline promotion, so it can be used to get links, coverage and traffic online and at the same time, build your brand and profile offline.
With so many positives, it’s surprising how many get press releases very wrong. It is not an advert. It shouldn’t be something you send out every day because you feel you have to produce new content. It shouldn’t be little more than a glorified sales pitch. If your press releases have failed to perform, it could be because you’re approaching them in the wrong way.
A high-quality press release does take time to write and you will need to dedicate a portion of your day or week to brainstorming the best angles, but setting up a press release template can help streamline the process. Rather than scrabble around praying to the Gods of creativity each time a release is called for, turn to a solid PR template which you have created to suit your business needs. You can then re-use quickly and easily time and time again.
A press release template doesn’t mean each PR is a carbon copy of the last. It simply provides a coherent structure that makes the process of writing a decent PR much easier. A press release template can also act as a roadmap, ensuring you stick to best practice on the journey from headline to boilerplate. To create your new PR template, open a blank Word document, give it a name such as PR template and start to fill in the fields below.
1. Header – In the header of the Word document, add your contact information. This should include your full name, your email address and your direct line at the office. This can be aligned left or right as you prefer.
2. Logo — Still in the header, import your company logo. Use a low res version to keep the file size small for sending via email but make sure it is crisp, clear and of a fairly good quality. This should be aligned with the contact information on the opposite side of the page. Close the header.
3. Headline — There should always — always — be a space for a headline at the top of your PR template. Your headline is the call to action, drawing in the reader and making them want to read more. It should answer the “Why”? Why should the reader continue to read? While you can play around with the look and feel of the template, moving your logo, contact information and other standard bits of the PR puzzle to any space you deem fit, the headline must always go at the top of the release. It should be formatted in bold and centered. Place the headline either all in caps or capitalize each word. You can use a slightly larger font (try 2 points bigger) for the headline.
4. Sub-headline — Include a space under the headline for a sub-head. This is a teaser and gives the reader that extra push to keep going. It can expand upon the headline a little, perhaps by one or two lines. It can be in bold or italicized. Keep it to the same size as the body text.
5. Lead paragraph — Your lead paragraph acts as a summary of the story. News editors and journalists are busy people. Use the lead paragraph to give them the bare bones of the story so they can reiterate the basics if they just don’t have time to read the whole thing. Put yourself in their shoes to write the lead paragraph. You want something that is attention grabbing, that conveys the point of the release and is new and different.
6. Body of the release – Professional journalists and PR writers will typically use an inverted pyramid approach to writing body copy. Picture an upside down triangle, with the tip of the triangle pointing to the bottom of your page. At the top of the page you have the most important information, beginning with the headline, which then filters down to the least important, smaller details in the narrow tip. The idea is that the reader can read the headline and or the intro to the PR and know what the news is. The further down the pyramid or triangle they read, the more of the smaller details they glean.
7. Quotes – If you intend to send your press release out using a service such as PRWeb, they will insist on having a quote in the release. It’s also good practice to include a quote, even if you’re going to handle the distribution manually. A quote should add something to the release and will add a second layer of detail which your business-like body copy may not convey. Quotes from clients are often a strong addition.
8. Boilerplate — The boilerplate of your release is really the “About Us” section. This can stay the same on each release or can be tweaked according to topic. A few lines will suffice.
Assemble these eight pieces into a template format and you’re good to go! Just pull up the template when you start to work on a new press release and you’ll never again have to wrack your brain trying to remember standard practice for press release composition or what type of details should come next.
What about you? Do you already use a template for press releases and similar documents that fit an expected format/profile? What other types of documents? Let us know in the comments.
Image: Press Release Construction by Shutterstock