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The Green Sheet Online Edition

November 14, 2011 • Issue 11:11:01

PR and press release basics

By Peggy Bekavac Olson
Strategic Marketing

Payment companies frequently ask me how they can promote their businesses so people know who they are and what they do. Marketing takes time and effort. As I've written previously, repetition using one or more marketing communications vehicles is key (for example, see "The remarkable results of repetition, repetition," The Green Sheet, Sept. 12, 2011, issue 11:09:01).

One effective approach to getting the word out about your company is utilizing public relations - especially press releases - to attract favorable media attention. Press releases can be a cost-effective marketing tool generating publicity and increased awareness to build credibility and enhance the image of your business.

Press releases can quickly and efficiently reach the masses while also spreading your message to targeted audiences, such as global media, analysts, investors, industry trade publications, social networkers, bloggers, customers and prospects. Press releases also provide valuable inbound links to drive traffic to your company's website and raise search engine rankings.

Information about a variety of newsworthy topics can be conveyed through press releases, including showcased products and services; personnel promotions and new hires; company awards celebrations, milestones and other accomplishments; financial information, funding sources and corporate changes; and upcoming events such as tradeshows and webinars.

The mechanics

A well-written press release provides reporters with the basic building blocks and information to develop news stories. Press releases follow a standard format that contains these elements:

  • AP style: Write your news in AP style, as delineated in The Associated Press Stylebook. Having information presented in AP style enables journalists to quickly cut and paste portions of press releases into stories they are writing.

  • Logo: Include your company's logo at the top of your release to build brand recognition and awareness.

  • Contact information: Specify the name, phone number, fax number and email address for your company's media relations designee.

  • Timing: The timing of your distribution, such as "For Immediate Release" or "Embargoed until Nov. 15, 2011, at 10:00 a.m.," should be listed in the upper left-hand corner in bold text with every letter capitalized. You may request an embargo for media to hold back your news until a specified date and time; however, the embargo may not be honored.

  • Headline: Headlines make or break your press release. Grab the attention of journalists with a well-crafted headline that summarizes your news in boldface text. Be straightforward, using fewer than 22 words or 67 characters to facilitate proper indexing by search engines.

  • Subheading: While not mandatory, subheadings work well to incorporate keywords not included in your headline and provide more detail about your news.

  • Dateline: In bold lettering, the dateline contains the originating city and state of the press release (certain well-known cities are not followed by state names; see the AP stylebook for a list of those), release date, and newswire service used for distribution. For example: "Phoenix, Ariz., Nov. 15, 2011 (Business Wire)".

  • Lead paragraph: The opening text answers the who, what, when, where and why questions about your news. Journalists reading only the lead paragraph should have everything they need to start writing their stories.

  • Body: The main text of your press release is where you fully develop your message using explanation, statistics, background, quotes and other relevant details. It serves to back up whatever claims you made in the headline and lead paragraph.

  • Boilerplate: A standard, one-paragraph description of your company, including items such as your company's name, stock symbol (if applicable), website address (URL), plus year founded, history, mission, vision, values and industry awards.

  • Close: The symbol "###" appears after the boilerplate, indicating the end of the release.

  • Hyperlinks: These link readers to specific destinations on your website or other pertinent sites that reinforce your message. They facilitate and deepen understanding. They also help search engines associate your content with websites, which improves release ranking. Additionally, creating links to specific web pages rather than simply linking to homepages boosts rankings.

  • Photos and video: Images tell a story that requires little translation. Including pictures or other multimedia-like presentations, such as executive photos, charts, graphs, or promotional and instructional videos, in your press releases can substantially increase readership, click-through rates and search engine indexing.

    Distribution

    Paid distribution stands head and shoulders above free distribution. So for important press releases, use a paid newswire distribution service such as PRNewswire, Business Wire or PRWeb.com to obtain the widest possible coverage, along with detailed reporting. For less critical press releases, it's OK to use reputable free distribution services such as PR.com, PRLog or NewswireToday.

    You can also send a press release directly to newspaper and magazine editors by pasting it into an email so editors don't have to click and open an attachment. It's desirable to build relationships with key journalists in your target markets. So a follow-up telephone call asking politely for coverage never hurts.

    Another great way to expand and amplify reach is to post releases on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs. And don't forget to add your press releases in a timely fashion to your own company website and blog. If your press releases are unique, interesting and newsworthy, they will be picked up by one or more media outlets for publication in journals, posting on websites, or airing on radio and television, and more. You may even be contacted for more information or an interview.

    On the road to success

    Surely the most important factor for public relations success is the content of your press releases. What you write about your company - the actual news - has the most impact on getting a press release found, seen and shared. Good content well presented, appropriately distributed and followed-up on should be your goal and mantra.

    Remember the importance of repetition. Distributing a steady stream of press releases is a good way to attract favorable media attention and get the word out about your company.

    So give it a whirl and experience what the power of publicity can do for your business. end of article

    Peggy Bekavac Olson founded Strategic Marketing, a full-service marketing and communications firm specializing in financial services and electronic payment companies, after serving as Vice President of Marketing and Communications for TSYS. She can be reached at 480-706-0816 or peggyolson@smktg.com. Information about Strategic Marketing can be found at www.smktg.com.

    Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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