5 Things to Stop Doing to Your Press Releases in 2014

March 14, 2014

By Luke O’Neill, Business Wire Editor

In the fast-paced, deadline-driven world of public relations it’s easy to rely on tired, ineffective practices merely to churn out press release after press release. But you’re better than that, right? Folks, the time to adapt and innovate is here. Empower your clients and yourself to be better, and think outside the press release template box. In this age of bite-sized “content” and short attention spans, it is vital to relay your message as efficiently as possible in order to activate as many brand fans as possible. 5 things to STOP going to your press release in 2014 stop sign After all, the press release is no longer a staid form of communication. Today’s press releases are professional yet also personable and conversational. Today’s releases are designed to educate and activate core and secondary audiences. Are yours? Not sure? Check out the list below. Here are the top five things today’s PR professionals must stop doing in press releases in order to be successful in 2014:

1. Stop writing long headlines. Today’s press release headline needs to be accurate and concise. The headline, above all, should catch the attention of intended audiences, and get them to read your release. Headlines particularly need strong verbs and should be devoid of adjectives. Instead, try writing a shorter headline – we suggest about 70 characters long. Don’t forget to include the company names in your headline. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to issue news and leave your name out of the most visible part of the release.

2. Stop over-stylizing. Too many bolds, italics, underlines, super and subscripts and even too many hyperlinks can turn a press release into an eyesore. Too many styles are hard on the eyes; they simply make your release more difficult to read. Use these styles sparingly and usually for emphasis, and watch the readability index for your release increase.

3. Stop overloading releases with keywords. Once upon a time, it was important to cram “relevant” keywords into a press release to appease the search engine optimization gods. Now? Not so much. Search engine algorithms have changed to reward good writing made for human consumption while also satisfying the technical side of web visibility. Business Wire issued a very helpful guide this year on press release optimization (download it here: http://go.businesswire.com/guide-to-press-release-optimization). This guide includes 10 steps to create a better release in 2014.

4. Stop using only embedded links. Press releases should incorporate a mix of spelled-out URLs and embedded links. Spelled-out URLs travel further, i.e. they can be read if you print out the story or seen in an email if there’s no HTML setup. When it comes to links, you want to be strategic. Use links sparingly, and of course don’t forget to test them before distributing your story.

5. Stop writing so much text. News releases, like actual news articles, ought to get to the point quickly. Stop writing long passive sentences and long-winded quotes and focus on shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, bullets and images to make your point.  Writing press releases is an art form all unto itself. The fastest way to master the art of crafting an actionable, successful press release is to focus on clear, succinct writing and smart imagery. Try it and see for yourself!


Editor’s Corner: Avoid Press Release Buzzkill with George Orwell’s Writing Tips

May 24, 2011

By Rebecca Bennett, Editor, Business Wire Seattle

by Rebecca Bennett, Editor, BW Seattle

While there’s plenty a PR pro can do to draw attention to press releases – solid SEO terms, attractive multimedia, for example –  simple language should not be underestimated. 

Straightforward language in the body of a release can be a big asset in establishing credibility and gaining traction.  Those writing press releases should avoid buzzwords and industry jargon that work against clear messaging, opting for brevity and conciseness.

In 2010, PR strategist Adam Sherk compiled a list of the most common buzzwords in press releases to demonstrate how a company’s perceived innovation may serve as a buzzkiller when it provokes eyerolls from editors and journalists who read dozens of press releases daily. 

Writers of press releases are wise to consider George Orwell’s Five Rules of Good Writing (actually six rules) included in his famous 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language.

Here they are:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Rules two and five are especially relevant to press release writers.  Keeping it brief can help your budget, since press release distribution costs are based on word count.  Avoiding jargon and obtuse language clearly communicates your message.

Business Wire’s website has plenty of press release pointersPRFilter.com is a great aggregator of press releases–useful for a PR professional to compare frequency of words across industries. 

Also, don’t hesitate to contact your local newsroom and/or account executive for feedback.

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

Don’t Let Your Press Releases Get Lost Without Translations

April 14, 2011
by Daniel Blue, Senior Editor, International Desk

Daniel Blue, Senior Editor, International Desk

Daniel Blue, Senior Editor, International Desk

Businesses who want to rush their international releases sometimes ask us to skip translations. Translations take time, and if  English is indeed “the universal language of business,” why not leave out that middle step?

When clients ask this of the International Desk, we suggest they consider the following:

  • Partners in China, Japan, France, Russia, Latin America and Eastern Europe (among others) don’t accept English-only copy at all. In other words, English-only releases won’t be received by several of the largest markets in the world.
  • Agence France-Presse, the French version of the Associated Press, will not send in English to certain areas of the world. AFP is one of the world’s three largest news agencies, and when it doesn’t distribute your news, the lost exposure is significant.
  • If a release isn’t translated, it won’t show up in that language on the Business Wire website. Nor will it be aggregated into newsfeeds by the Chinese, Japanese and other non-English services that scrape our news pages. That’s another huge missed opportunity.

So who does receive releases sent only in English?

A few large markets will accept these, notably, Germany, the Netherlands, Korea, India, Spain, Italy, and Scandinavia.   Also, certain international journalists that have specifically asked for English copy will receive the feed from from Business Wire though our Press Pass program.

But how many people in those countries will actually read the release?

While some viewers will be fluent in English, many will not, and pick-up is bound to be limited by not having the release in the native tongue.

Bottom line: use translations. They’re part of the price, and if you want to look them over beforehand, we’re glad to oblige.  But don’t hobble your coverage by refusing to use them at all.


Editor’s Corner: How to Bring Social Media into Your Press Release

March 22, 2011

by John Benutty, Senior Editor, Business Wire San Francisco

by John Benutty, Sr Editor, Business Wire San Francisco

The secret is out – if you want to get noticed, your company must tap into the social media consciousness of our time.Consider the fact that we twenty- and early thirty-somethings – now an intricate part of the business and media fields – were in college when Facebook began, and we know the value of social media as if its playbook were written on our forearms. Young professionals tweet, post to walls, like, digg, bing, ping, blog, Google and forward more than anyone else, leaving the heartbeat of your news at the tips of our mouse-clicking fingers.

So how does your company tap into the ever-expanding atmosphere of social media? Is it possible to use it to your advantage within your Business Wire press release? Most certainly.

Step 1: Build your fan-base by adding social media links to your release

The easiest way to bridge the gap between social media and your news is to always include links to the places online where your company has a presence. In addition to including a link to your company’s home page, include the URLs to your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. Links provide easy access for those who receive your news to keep track of more than just your press releases – they’ll fan your Facebook page, follow your Twitter feed and subscribe to your YouTube channel to stay up on all your latest announcements.

Here are a few places where these social media links make the most sense:

  • as part of your boilerplate along with your company URL
  • in a bulleted list (i.e., “Find Us Online”) with a link to each site where your company has a media presence
  • alongside your media/investor relations phone numbers and email addresses

Step 2: Keep your fan-base informed by re-posting and re-tweeting your release from BusinessWire.com

One of the many great things about distributing your news through Business Wire is the “Sharing” toolbar on your press release page. To the immediate left of every press release on BusinessWire.com is a list of social media links encouraging viewers to share the press release with their own friends, fans and followers. Seize this opportunity and share your news directly with your newly acquired fan-base. It goes without saying that the people you care most about reaching are the friends of your friends, so re-post and re-tweet your release to your fans, and let them share their excitement about your news with the people they know – from there, the distance your news can travel is boundless, so give it that first little tweet and let the diggs, bings and pings fall where they may.

With 32 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


Daylight Saving Time And Other Timing Tips for Your Press Releases

March 10, 2011
by Rebecca Rose, Business Wire Editor, Atlanta

If you’re sending a press release in the next couple of days, please factor Daylight Saving Time into your plans.

Rebecca Rose, Editor, BW/Atlanta

Daylight Saving Time was first enacted in the U.S. in 1918 and in classic “spring forward”  fashion, it begins Sunday, March 13, this year.  Clocks will jump forward an hour at 2 a.m. local time in most areas. The time shift will also occur in other parts of North America, including Mexico and most of Canada.  The European Union (EU) won’t change their clocks until the last Sunday in March.

Exceptions to Daylight Saving Time include the entire state of Arizona, northwest Indiana and the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.  We recommend verifying the local time in your targeted distribution area.   And, if you’re at all unsure about the correct time zone, contact your local newsroom – we’re always here to help!

The most common goof we see on news releases during time change season is communicators failing to note event timing announcements in the current timing scenario.  For example, a press conference taking place at 8 o’clock in the morning in New York City will be noted as starting at 8 AM EST versus 8 AM EDT.   Our editors are on the look out for such errors.

Here’s a good reference to see which locales change when.  Below we’ve assembled a few extra timing tips to get you through the night as that extra hour gets shelved until autumn.  On November 6, we’ll “fall back” and get those 60 minutes back.
  • When writing and scheduling your press release, be sure to consider the time zone of your desired geographic circuit. If you’re located in Atlanta, but are targeting media points in California, sending your release out at 8 a.m. ET (5 a.m. PT) probably isn’t going to get you the most bang for your buck.
  • Templates are frequently used when crafting press releases, so be sure to double-check that time zone abbreviations are updated and correct.
  • A simple, albeit effective, strategy for boosting pickup is to release your news slightly past the hour. For example, rather than scheduling your release to cross the wire at 8 a.m., try scheduling it for 8:01 a.m. or 8:06 a.m. This will set your news apart from the rush of releases scheduled to go out on-the-hour.

With 32 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.


Editor’s Corner – September Edition

September 24, 2010

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

by Business Wire Minneapolis Editor Paul J.F. Bowman

Answer Potential Questions Within Your Press Release Content

Readers should rarely need to clarify your information; well-written press releases answer nearly every question they may have. After you’ve read aloud the final draft of your release in private, ask a few colleagues to review it as well. See if they have any questions about the content. If not, you’ve written with clarity!

 

Company XZ is rated #1 in our field.

#1 in which field? Who rated you #1?

 

ZZ Magazine rated Company XZ ‘#1 Distributor of ABCC Products.’

 

The latter italicized sentence shows who rated Company XZ as #1 (ZZ Magazine). It also indicates in which field Company XZ is rated #1 (distribution of ABCC Products). This example illustrates a primary purpose of a press release: to offer the media enough initial and verifiable information to write about the topic.

 

Don’t offer a reason to leave your press release

In my experience, phrases such as “studies show” or “researchers agree” (my personal favorite: “most people agree”) often lack citation. A reference to the study or survey’s findings should always accompany these phrases; uncited claims quickly open the information’s legitimacy for questioning.

When writing an article responding to a survey or research, offer verifiable sources through hyperlinks, name/company/position of personnel interviewed, periodical name and date of issue, etc. Don’t leave your readers to trust your writing exclusively; give them a chance to investigate your source material. The sources you provide act as the first defense of your information. Ideally, the writer’s content guides the reader’s understanding of the research, much like a GPS assists a driver’s navigation.

Though many will not read your source information, simply offering your reader the chance to review it gives tremendous credence to your piece. Providing citations and footnotes focuses the reader on your source information rather than Web search results.

My estimated chances of finishing an article are around 1% once I’ve attempted to find or clarify the source information myself. In the press world, this loss of your captive audience costs money. Once you’ve let readers stray from your content, it will be very difficult to bring them back.

Hyperlink your sources

 

Clicking press release hyperlinks on our website opens them either in a new window or a new tab, depending on how your browser is setup. The only exception to this is the (BUSINESS WIRE) hyperlink in the dateline or our logo at the end of the release. Clicking either of those will bring you to our home page in the same tab/window.

The setting to automatically open each hyperlink in a separate window is embedded in the website coding. If your company has an online press center, ask your webmaster if they can enable your release hyperlinks to automatically open new windows/tabs.

Internet Explorer 7 users, here’s how to change your setting between opening a new tab or opening a new window:

  1. Open Internet Explorer 7
  2. On the “File,” “Edit,” etc. toolbar, click “Tools,” then “Internet Options”
  3. On the General tab, under the subsection named “Tabs,” click “Settings”
  4. The first box, “Enable Tabbed Browsing” must be checked to use tabs
  5. Once that box is checked, the options we’re most interested in are under “When a pop-up is encountered:”
  6. Pick your preferred option, “Always open pop-ups in a new window” or “Always open pop-ups in a new tab”
  7. Click “OK”
  8. Click “OK” again
  9. If “Enable Tabbed Browsing” was not checked before step #5, you will need to restart your browser to complete enabling of this feature

-Paul J.F. Bowman, Editor, Business Wire Minneapolis


Editor’s Corner – July Edition: What’s all the Hype about Hyperlinks?

July 16, 2010

With 30 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

What’s all the Hype about Hyperlinks?

Direct the Media and Viewers Beyond Your Home Page

Nicole DeJarnatt

BW Denver Editor Nicole DeJarnatt

From financial filings to product updates to new personnel announcements, it’s vital that today’s press release not only encourage your target audience to read your news, but to “click” through your text and go beyond the scope of your company’s home page.

Including a variety of “active” or “clickable” hyperlinks in your press release is an easy and cost-effective way to showcase a particular product and generate traffic to your website. Moreover, it enables your audience to learn more detailed information, keeping them engaged with your company longer, in a fresh and interactive way.

When adding hyperlinks to your press release, consider these tips:

  • Pick relevant, up-to-date links that reference a specific Web page, rather than generic links like your company home page. For example, emphasize your investor relations page, link to the registration site for an upcoming conference, showcase a product and where it can be purchased, or highlight executive bios/photos and personnel quoted within your release.
  • Don’t link your headline. This can actually hurt the searchability of your release on sites like Google.
  • Don’t wait for the boilerplate. Readers often skim the news so include links early on and not just in the “About” section.
  • Don’t repeat links. Mix it up and reference a variety of resources/Web pages.
  • Don’t overdo the blue. Too many links can actually flag your release as spam and make it hard for the reader to focus on what’s important. Business Wire recommends one link per 100 words.
  • Link to interactive multimedia like photos as well as video and audio clips.
  • Optimize and reinforce keywords/phrases with online search engines by hyperlinking them in your press release.
  • Copy/paste embedded hyperlinks whenever possible (i.e., don’t re-key long URLs).
  • Use Business Wire’s Short URL Generator to convert long URLs for use in your release and other marketing communications.
  • No dead links. Double check that all your links are live and working.
  • When uploading your company logo via Business Wire Connect (free), be sure to include the URL/link to your home page so readers are automatically directed there.
  • Gauge your return on investment by reviewing your NewsTrak reports to determine a summary of viewer interaction with your release, including links and click-throughs from referring URLs. Evaluate which keywords/phrases are getting hits and which aren’t, and adjust your media strategy accordingly.

Adding “active” and “clickable” hyperlinks expands the reach of your press release and transforms it from a basic public relations tool into an interactive online portal for media, analysts, investors and consumers. Now click your mouse three times and say…“There’s a better place than the home page.”

For questions about how to embed “active” and “clickable” links within your news release, contact your local Business Wire newsroom.

-Nicole DeJarnatt, Newsroom Editor, Business Wire Denver


Editor’s Corner – May Edition

May 18, 2010

With 30 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

BW Charlotte Newsroom Supervisor Penny Sowards

I have been here at Business Wire for 23 years and, although the PR industry has undergone dramatic technological changes during that time,  the basic rules are still pretty much the same when it comes to getting the most out of a press release.  Here a few things to consider.

One of most important things to think about when writing a press release is its “readability,” making sure the focus is clear and concise.  Lead sentence should of course convey the main idea of what your press release is about. Sentences should be clear and to the point, avoiding lengthy and confusing terminology.

Bullet points can be a handy tool if you’re listing events, locations, etc. Breaking information out in this manner makes it easier to reference data quickly.  I have noticed more of a trend toward this style of press release writing in recent years, and I think it works well.

Quotes are an extremely important component to include in a press release.  It gives  information in the release validation and support.  Press releases take on more of a personal and credible tone with well-worded quotes placed in strategic locations. Break out quotes change on our site each time a press release is pulled up, so it’s important to have several compelling citations to inspire readers to read more.

Consider running a photo with your press release. Whenever I am editing a press release, I always enjoy the ones that include photos.  Photos, or for that matter, videos, make the release more effective because it is genuinely more interesting. A colorful, multimedia effect is more appealing than black-and-white words on a screen.  Technology has made this dynamic supplement to press releases increasingly simpler to achieve.

Lastly, and this probably goes without saying, always be available when a member of the media should have questions for you. The press release will contain plenty of information, but reporters on deadline will most likely have more in-depth questions that only the PR or Communications person can answer.

-Penny Sowards, Newsroom Supervisor, Business Wire Charlotte


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