Chapter 7: Advanced Guide to
Writing Powerful Press Releases
Fourth of July is one of the best holidays in my opinion and one of the reasons why is because of the fireworks, specifically the grand finale display. Chapter 7 is the grand finale of this particular press release series.
Think of this section as if it were your press release bible of what to do and what not to do. We are going to check out some press releases that failed and some that nailed it, side-by-side comparisons of headlines, body text, and quotes that win/lose (all with helpful explanations).
Let’s start at the top with headlines.
1. Failed vs. Nailed: Headlines
If someone asks you, hey do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first, which do you choose? I go with the bad news, so here are some headlines fails first, followed by the headlines that nailed it.
|“Huge Gains from Another Recommendation”||Do you know what this press release is about? Fashion? A cancer-curing drug? Are you at a loss? Me too. This is a headline for a financial services article. Always make sure your headline reveals what your release is actually about.|
|“Plastic Surgery Practice in Chicago Launches New Website”||This one is tricky, but this is not a newsworthy story. The headline sets the tone for your story and rule #1: Your press release must be newsworthy.|
|“Vecow Announces the VMX-200 4-CH Video/Audio Capture Card Series with Mini-PCle Interface”||I’m lost and so are about 80% of the people who would come across this headline. Make your headline approachable and readable to a wide market. Share the product name in the release and say that “Vecow Announces New Surveillance Technology”|
|“The Duggars At Center of Alleged Anti-Gay Controversy”||Controversy sparks interest, the Duggars and LGBT issues are both timely, and the headline reveals what the release is about. Simple, direct, no fluff.|
|“Head-to-Head: iPhone vs. Android”||It appeals to a wide audience, offers a comparison (aka knowledge), and comes right to the point. Sometimes short and sweet is all it takes.|
|“Muslim Age Limits Lifted At Jerusalem Holy Site “||This is big news, an announcement of a milestone. Straightforward and interest piquing.|
2. Failed vs. Nailed: Body Text
While the headline hooks the reader, the body needs to keep the reader’s attention until the very end. This section compares and contrasts two examples of solid vs. not-so-great bodies.
New York, NY – October 14, 2013 – BuzzFeed announced today it will expand to Portuguese, Spanish and French languages in the coming weeks to grow the site’s global footprint. The site will work with Duolingo, the free language-learning platform, to have Duolingo’s students translate the best of BuzzFeed into new languages while localizing BuzzFeed’s iconic tone. BuzzFeed will also hire editors fluent in Spanish, French, and Portuguese to manage and create native language content.
As Duolingo’s first client, BuzzFeed will internationalize in an unprecedented way for a publisher, using Duolingo’s revolutionary technology and massive user base. Native Spanish, Portuguese and French speakers learning English on Duolingo will work together to translate BuzzFeed articles while a patented algorithm combines the best translations into one professionally translated post. As such, BuzzFeed will help advance the spreading of culture and language across the world by supporting Duolingo’s free language education platform.
“Social is increasingly global so building new audiences who speak different languages, and helping spread that language at the same time, is a natural expansion for BuzzFeed. We’re so thrilled to be working with Luis and Duolingo to power this international experiment,” said Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed Founder & CEO.
“We’re excited to work with BuzzFeed, a company that is notably at the forefront of new media,” said Luis von Ahn, co-founder of Duolingo. “Their content is invariably great and our students love translating it.”
Just fifteen months after launch, Duolingo reached 10M users, which guarantees high-speed, high-volume translations, ensuring that BuzzFeed content can be translated in a matter of hours. The system combines a vital human touch and algorithm to ensure the veracity of the translated post. As a result, Duolingo generates translations at the accuracy level of those generated by skilled professionals.
BuzzFeed.com will be one global site, with tailored homepages for Brazil (Portuguese), Spanish and France. The user’s browser language setting, not their IP address, will determine which default homepage they see, leading to a more personal experience. Native speaking editors will create original content and manage translated content, will study sharing habits and look for opportunities to expand into localized teams in the strongest markets.
Brazil launches October 18, Spanish launches October 21 and France launches November 4.
Why it Wins:
To start, this story is newsworthy. It includes quotes from two high-level executives, it follows the progress of an extremely popular website,there are no grammar mistakes, and it provides value (new knowledge) for the reader.
Now, let’s look at a not-so-good example.
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Why it Fails:
It sounds like a jargon-heavy Billy Mays commercial without testimonials and interesting content. Where is the story? Remember, a press release is not a sales pitch, an advertisement, or a commercial. You are not selling something on Craigslist. Announcing a new product is newsworthy, but writers need to have an angle that is not just selling said product.
Also: There is no quote.
3. Failed vs. Nailed: Quotes
The bottom line with press release quotes is this: Don’t be bland and boring. Be genuine, conversational, and have an opinion. The differences are enormous as you will see in the below failed it and nailed it examples.
|On this occasion, Mr. Rishi Samadhia, Vice President, Operations, ZyXEL India said, “Maintaining our niche in the Indian market, we at ZyXEL believe in giving our customers an ultimate experience for their home and business networks. ZyXEL is proud to launch NSA221, its first 2-Bay media server in India. It is a visible example of ZyXEL’s widening approach as it supports multiple server technologies for multimedia sharing. The combination of various exciting applications like iTunes server, SqueezeCenter, personal blog and photo album server for PCs, laptops and Squeeze Boxes makes it a must have for every techno freak.”||Corporate speak is self-promotional and it sounds rehearsed (boring and bland). The quote also delves a bit too deep into the machinations of their product.|
|“A critical focus for Albemarle’s FCS team is to tag on substructure for the efficient pre-development of complex multi-step synthesis’ for our customers,” said Steve LeVan, Division Vice President of Fine Chemistry Services. “The new lab gives our European customers a convenient way to augment collaboration and consultation with Albemarle scientists, ultimately accelerating the process from idea stage to commercialization.”||No one talks like this! Be conversational and real.|
|Blank box = no quote, which can be a fail. Always try to include one quote from a relevant person that adds significance. Journalists love quotes, which means they will be more likely to use your press release if it has one.|
|“I had a tumor in my abdomen,” she [Elisabeth Hasselbeck] explained beside co-hosts Steve Doocy and Eric Bolling. “The doctor said, ‘You got to get it out by the end of the month, we don’t like how it looks.’ I had a scary week when we didn’t know what the results were.”||This is an honest, real quote. People can relate to it. Being genuine takes a story a whole lot further, as this example shows.|
|“We’re not seeing an outbreak in remarriage fever. We’re seeing an increase in the number of people who are in a position to remarry,” said Andrew J. Cherlin, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University. “What’s happened is that the share of the population that’s divorced has risen greatly. In particular, the baby boomer generation — which experienced more divorce than any generation in history– is now in their 50s and 60s. They’ve lived long enough, and there are now more of them to get remarried.”||This example is an expert testimonial that adds credibility to the article. It is factual and it adds not information (aka it is not redundant).|
|“For us, what’s going on in Newark is not a triumph, it’s a tragedy,” said Sharon Smith, who has three children in that city’s public schools and was among about 40 parents and students who filled the 12th floor conference room at the American Enterprise Institute. “Our children are facing this disruption, and we don’t have a voice.”||While you want your release to be objective, you can add in opinions through quotes, especially with controversial topics, like this example. Again, it adds that human interest touch. The story becomes less of a fact sheet and more of a piece with personality.|
4. Failed vs. Nailed: Full Press Releases
Despite the best instruction and your best efforts, you’re going to be tempted to do some bad, bad things. Let’s take a look at a few examples of releases that killed, and releases that tanked.
WaTunes CEO Kevin Rivers Resigns, Appoints Kyle Rivers as Successor
Port Huron, MI — Sep 10, 2011 / (http://www.myprgenie.com) — Dear WaTunes Customers,
Over the past 5 years, I wanted to build a great product that enables musicians to get the best out of their music. It was at that end that I founded WaTunes as a home for many to share their musical gifts. Today, WaTunes is a MP3 Music Store embedded into the Facebook community. With over 10 million songs from majors and indies, we are the driving force of premium downloads on Facebook. We have enabled millions of musicians to sell their music within Facebook and have paved the way for indies for years. As effective immediately, it is with great distinction that I have officially decided to leave the company and appoint my brother Kyle Rivers as the new CEO. This is due to my increasing focus in other ventures. Kyle is an amazing individual with innovative ideas and savvy. He has serve as President of WaTunes for 3 years and have distinctively master the knowledge of the music industry. I entrust that he will further provide growth for WaTunes as he works to express and share all of your ideas to make WaTunes a better music service. (For further questions regarding WaTunes and its updates, please contact Kyle via Twitter @kylerivers)
So What’s Next For Me?
Currently I am working on a new venture called: Venzo Digital, a powerful delivery platform for iTunes. We enable everyone to sell unlimitedmusic on iTunes without sacrificing any upfront fees or cost. This includes: music, music videos, ringtones, iTunes LPs, and iPhone apps. Our business model and mission is growth. We want to grow with our customers as we build our strategic relationship with everyone of them. I encourage everyone who is in need of distributing music on iTunes to check us out at: www.venzodigital.com.
Contact: Kevin Rivers, email@example.com, 8104450202
Why It Doesn’t Work:
This reminds me of a letter I once received from a doctor informing me that he left for a new practice. Dear Such and Such sounds an editorial/op-ed work and it certainly does not come in first for strong leads. For starters, always use the 5W content in your lead (who, what, where, when, and why). Use third-person, unless quoting. Bottom line: This sounds like a letter that you would send to your client base. The release has potential, however. Announcing changes can be newsworthy, but make it objective and discuss the impacts on the community/those affected.
SellingLTC.com Debuts New Long-Term Care Insurance Power Lunch Sales Training Series
ATLANTA, Aug. 29, 2006 — SellingLTC.com, LLC, the leader in providing long-term care insurance sales and marketing solutions for insurance producers, today announced its new Power Lunch Sales Training Series designed to teach producers how to set more appointments and close more long-term care insurance (LTCI) sales.
The Power Lunch Sales Training Series will be conducted via web seminars and offered free to all who wish to attend. The 30-minute sessions, which are to be held monthly, will cover everything from sales psychology, communication techniques and closing skills, to the latest industry changes like the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. “The sessions are designed to benefit anyone who wants to increase their knowledge and understanding of how to effectively market and sell more LTCI,” said Phillip W. Sullivan, President of SellingLTC.com.
Each session will be conducted by Sullivan, who has been successful in the LTCI market since 1989. He is a nationally recognized sales trainer who has trained over 20K agents how to succeed in the LTCI market. He also was a featured speaker this past April at The National LTCI Sales Training Conference in Nashville. “Without proper guidance and direction LTCI can be a tough market in which to succeed. Many times a consistent flow of new ideas and sales concepts can dramatically increase an agent’s chances of success. We have been offering training assistance in the form of our web-based subscription products, sales systems and a sales tip which has been emailed to nearly 30K producers each month for the past six years. The Power Lunch Series is a natural extension of those services,” said Sullivan.
The Power Lunch Series will bring the best of Phillip W. Sullivan’s sales training right into your office. Sullivan continued, “If you are searching for ideas and strategies which will elevate your LTCI sales, make sure you attend an upcoming session.”
To learn more about SellingLTC.com’s Power Lunch Series and its full suite of web-based LTCI sales and marketing products, including its popular LTCI Custom Websites, subscriptions to SellingLTC.com Professional – a complete LTCI sales and marketing support website for insurance producers, its new DRA Marketing Pak and its One-Call Close LTCI Sales System – Presenting with Purpose/Closing with Conviction, visit SellingLTC.com at http://www.SellingLTC.com.
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Why it Works:
This example ties in all the elements we have previously talked about. The headline is clear, direct. It is written in the inverted pyramid style. You can so the lead at the top with the 5W content, lesser information, then least important information at the beginning. It has a good quote, contact information, and a call-to-action statement. It is all there!
By now, you should have a clear understanding of what works and what does not work in press releases. There is always room for improvement and whether you are writing your first press release or whether you are writing your five hundredth press release, you can take pieces of this series and integrate them into your writing.
As St. Ignatius of Loyola says, “Go forth and set the world on fire.” Let your own releases shine bright in the media!