Online Press Release Formatting: Are Your Online PRs Attracting Or Turning Off Readers?

One of the most surprising things we notice when reading through new press releases is how closely people stick to the same basic template. It looks something like this…

  • Headline
  • Subhead
  • Intro Paragraph
  • Second Paragraph
  • Blockquote
  • Third Paragraph
  • Blockquote
  • Fourth Paragraph
  • Boilerplate

To be sure, there are some appealing benefits to using this format. It's easy, simple, and a great way to systematize the creative process of writing your PRs. If your only goal is to get your news announcements indexed in Google to build links to your site, following this template is fine. But if you're trying to get people to read your PRs, and feel engaged enough to visit your site, it's time to think outside the box.

Today, we're going to take a look at the format of your online press releases. Sound boring? Stick around. We'll share some key tips for using visuals to engage your readers. You'll also learn why one of the oldest methods for delivering information is still one of the most powerful.

Why Press Release Templates May Be A Bad Idea

Have you ever sat down to read ten or more press releases that follow the same basic template? It's a bit like shopping for perfumes: after the first few, they seem to blend together. Now, imagine that you're a journalist or influential blogger, and you receive dozens of news announcements each week. Part of your job is to read each one, and decide which are the most interesting, engaging, and timely for your audience.

Is it any wonder a large number are sent to the round file, often within seconds?

Using a template to write your press releases, while simple and easy, is also a good way to turn off weary journalists and bloggers. And, keep in mind, your PRs won't do much good if they get deleted or trashed.

Your news announcements need to be well-written. They need a hook. They need to deliver the necessary details (who, what, when, where, and why) as quickly as possible. But these are merely the basics. If you want readers to actually read your press releases, and click through to your site, you'll need to go a step further. You'll need to use multimedia.

Using Multimedia To Engage Your Readers

Text used to be enough to get people's attention. As long as your PR's angle was interesting or useful, people would keep reading. These days, thanks in large part to how we use Google to research, folks tend to scan rather than read. Studies show that a person's eyes will flit back and forth, looking for key elements, rather than methodically moving left to right, line by line.

Even as folks seem to be reading less thoroughly, they are consuming other forms of media more voraciously than ever. Witness the success of infographics, those ubiquitous large images that boil down data points into easy-to-digest visual bytes. Also, notice how videos now play a major role on most major media sites, from CNN and NYTimes to Slate and Salon. Video attracts eyeballs.

What does this tell you about your press releases? You need to incorporate photos, images, and videos to better engage visitors. Your audience may not read a 400-word news announcement, but they'll happily sit through a 4:00 video that delivers the same information.

A good online press release distribution system will have this feature built in. But a quick note of caution: when you create YouTube videos, make sure they embed properly. Otherwise, your PRs may show a large black space where your videos are supposed to display. Test them before hitting the "Submit" button.

The Power Of The List

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Earlier, we mentioned a tried and true method for delivering information in a way that will keep people reading your press releases. It's not chic or sophisticated, but it works like a charm.

The secret? Create a list.

Some of your PRs can be written as a series of tips. The goal is to give your audience useful information that positions you as the expert. The tips whet their appetite, and get them thinking about what they want to accomplish – namely, contacting you.

For example, suppose you run a vascular surgery clinic. You might publish an article titled, "8 Key Indicators Of High Blood Pressure." If a reader suspects she has HBP, she won't satisfied with knowing only five or six indicators of the disease. She'll want to know all eight. That's the power of the list. That's why books, magazines, news pieces, and press releases continue to use the list format. Write a press release touting your published article — and include a few sample tips or shorter versions of your article's tips. Combine with photos and multimedia, and you'll have a deeply-compelling news announcement that keeps people reading until they see the link to your site.

Your Turn!

Have you used multimedia in your online press releases? Have you used the list format to present information? If so, what were your results and what would you do differently?


tara 150x150 How Social Media And Press Release Distribution Fit TogetherAbout the AuthorTara Geissinger is an SEO and content marketing expert by day and triplet mom by night. As Co-Owner of the online visibility firm, SEO Content Solutions, and online press release distribution firm, Online PR Media, Tara has helped thousands of businesses get more visibility online. From helping Macy's optimize their product descriptions to working behind-the-scenes with some of the largest SEO and marketing firms in the world, she is one of the best kept secrets in the online marketing niche.


  1. says

    Do you have any thoughts or examples, Tara, of multinational firms incorporating photos and videos into their press releases? What would it take for the Boeings and Raytheons of the world to do it if there's not a precedent?

  2. Liyya Mohammed Hassanali says

    The Power of The List is really a thing of beauty! I L-O-V-E the idea of creating one piece and than expanding upon that single piece as a series with multiple platforms — talk about the power of Content Marketing! This is invaluable information Tara, I am excited to share this with clients! :)

  3. Karen says

    I think templates are a great starting point, but that each release should be looked at as a prime opportunity to STAND OUT! Great article!

  4. Kate says

    I love the idea of thinking outside of the box with PRs! If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video must be even better! I'll admit to skimming text and focusing on photos and videos myself so this is a great idea to change things up with a PR. 

  5. says

    Ari, I think the press release is changing — especially when it comes to publishing online. A published press release has so much potential to speak directly to journalists, bloggers and potential customers. It only makes sense to start making them multipurpose by including images, files, video, etc… I know one company who seems to be really embracing this is Coke. Here is a link to a recent press release that I found: They do a great job of putting a catchy image front and center — and linking to their YouTube video further in the release. 

  6. Jackie says

    Great tips, Tara! I'll admit to skimming as well. I LOVE using images and especially videos in releases. I feel like 9 times out of 10 I'll watch the video or look at the pictures first, then if that's engaging enough I'll read the release. 

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