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Rethinking the Press Release: How To Approach Content

How to bring your press releases up to speed in the modern content landscape

By Emily ClouseStaff Writer
SPONSORED 11:23PM 02/18/19

A press release can be a powerful tool to get the word out about your brand’s new initiative, big event or product debut. But as modern approaches to content continue to evolve, press releases in the traditional sense have grown stagnant.

Luckily, the format offers ample opportunities to be made more interesting and engaging—and to drive better results.

It’s time to rethink the press release.

Rethinking Tone

Traditional press releases are straightforward and no-nonsense, with little room for creativity. But as the content landscape has shifted in recent years, the press release has become another key opportunity for your brand to stand out.

Consider positioning and what’s going to be most effective for your audience, even if it’s not customary. “If it is a fun new product release or unique campaign that’s more on the consumer side, that’s where you can get creative and have more fun with the people you're talking to and the quotes you’re bringing in,” said Angela Zerda Paules, Chief Marketing Officer of Buzz Franchise Brands.

“We have found that writing in the traditional sense doesn’t connect well with our audience, so we break the mold,” said Jackie Bondanza, President of Hounds Town USA. “We find the more it’s about the dogs, the catchier it is, and the more people feel engaged by it. The more we use certain marketing techniques, that’s what we lead with.”

Rethinking Headlines and Subheadlines

Make sure the headline isn’t both the first and last part of your press release that people read. Strike a balance between informational and eye-catching here—you have the rest of the release to tell the whole story.

“You want something that will hook readers immediately, but there’s a balance between something that will catch attention but not be absurd or push the boundary too much to where it doesn’t seem credible or like clickbait,” said Paules. “If the headline is more on the catchy side, the subheadline helps you understand that it’s not a misleading or clickbait-y headline. It’s the bit to explain what the real story is going to be.”

As for length, Paules said to keep it tight. “I have seen so many [press releases] that are so long it seems like the whole article has been stuffed into the headline,” she said. “It needs to have a message behind it, but not so long that there’s nothing left to read. Don’t give away everything.”

Penn Station company president Craig Dunaway emphasized that when making a headline interesting, the body content must be too. “I don’t want to click on something thinking it’s interesting but it’s not,” he said.

Rethinking Structure

Set your press release up to have a compelling beginning, middle and end. While the traditional “who, what, where, when” press release structure can feel overdone, a fresh story arc will keep a reader engaged through the end.

“Whether it’s a joke or an emotional story, it has to have a structure or people get lost in the telling. Press releases are the same way—if it doesn’t seem structured, then people will get lost or lose interest. And you won’t get the message across in a way that will resonate,” said Paules.

Paules also suggested peppering in quotes from credible sources, such as the brand’s CEO or head of the department involved in the announcement. “The whole press release shouldn’t be one big quote, but mix them in throughout to bring credibility into the story that’s being told,” she said.

Rethinking Content

Rethinking the press release means reconsidering your audience’s interests and attention span. “If it’s too much information or too dense, people stop reading after the first paragraph. The headline and first paragraph are most important,” said Bondanza.

When it comes to growing your business and lending credibility, let data do the talking. “It’s not about just making broad general statements, but being able to have specific examples, statistics or numbers to go back to,” said Paules. “Have two or three main points to get across, and substantiate them with data throughout the writing.”

A dash of personal interest will help tell the story. Paules advised including “any sort of human element, whether that’s a meaningful quote from someone who’s tied to it, or a story behind the main message that’s relatable to people.”

Greg Goddard, Director of Development and Franchising at Penn Station, suggested rethinking the value of a press release. “Like anything in life, add some element of value for the audience. If it’s not of value to anyone, total fluff, it’s not worth announcing,” he said.

Dunaway reiterated that a press release is supposed to be newsworthy, not blatant advertisement. “Make sure it’s not an infomercial, but realistic and plausible, not written with self-interest. Make it credible and not sound like it’s one-sided,” he said.

Bondanza suggested maximizing the content’s capability for results by inserting a call to action.

“Include the announcement of a contest or a special so that it’s not just informational for the customer, but also interactive. If we make the press release an avenue to get somewhere else, that gives us the highest chance that someone will read it and engage with it,” she said.

Finally, consider whether a press release is the best method for the topic and your audience in general.

“We don’t do a lot of press releases,” said Bondanza. “We do blog stories, which are a more relatable format for our customers. Including a video or a photo has always produced better results than straight text. We communicate with our customers very differently.”