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

Table of Contents

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?

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