When I wrote my first press release I didn’t realize I was participating in an important journalistic tradition. In a world where the media has the power to perpetuate unbalanced information, the press release (mostly) remains an unbiased form of news–and that’s invaluable. Press releases give individuals, companies, organizations, etc. the opportunity to announce news, or respond to an incident before anyone else has a chance to spread incorrect information.

The first modern press release is said to have been written by Ivy Lee–the man known as the father of modern public relations–in response to a 1906 train wreck in Atlantic City.  Although Lee later was criticized for slanting stories and propagandizing on behalf of his clients (Upton Sinclair even nicknamed him “Poison Ivy”), the press release is valuable to the public when created and distributed ethically.

Traditional Approach

In the traditional model, companies, organizations, or public figures  hire public relations professionals to craft press releases and distribute them to various media outlets including newspapers and networks of journalists. Another approach is for an organization to have an in-house marketing professional who writes and distributes the news to the press. Before the digital age, public relations professionals relied on relationships with media contacts, and the intended release had to be truly newsworthy to be published and gain traction.

Traditional methods are still in use, but as with any component of marketing, the approach to press releases has been drastically changed in the digital age.

Digital-Age Approach

Because press releases wouldn’t exist unless the subject (i.e. company, individual) made the effort to distribute them (even with a middleman), they are essentially a DIY thing. But the digital age has amplified the DIY aspect of the press release, enabling almost anyone to publish one about almost anything–diluting them in the grand scheme of things.

There are hundreds of free press release distribution services on the Internet, enabling anyone to publish their “news.” Since Google’s algorithm updates shun low-quality backlinks and content harder than ever, I’d not recommend using these sites. Sure, some people actually make the effort to create and publish quality, modestly optimized content on these sites, but others use them as a dumping ground.

In digital terms, paid services like PRWeb or Marketwire are absolutely the better alternative. After all, you get what you pay for, and if you paid nothing, well… you might get nothing in return.

Press Releases and SEO

Online press releases provide a great SEO opportunity in terms of general Internet presence and attaining backlinks–so long as you’re using a trustworthy service. Why? As with any other form of link building content, you can choose a few relevant target URLs and keywords, and write accordingly.

Disclaimer: Try not to expect the media to come banging down your door because you distributed an online press release. While online services do effectively distribute your news to different media outlets, they’re really more effective for link building and Internet presence. In other words, don’t distribute a press release a week before a big company event and expect it to rope in hundreds of attendees. 

How to Write a Press Release

You craft an online press release much like a traditional press release, only you make it SEO-friendly. Below is a visual break-down of the anatomy of a press release. Note the highlighted phrases would be the targeted keywords for Mother Nature & Co.’s campaign (litter removal product, litter prevention product, environment wellness organization) and the hyperlinked text are two keywords and the new product.

Click image for a larger view!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t bother if you don’t have something truly newsworthy, like a new store opening, a new product, certification, a promotion, etc.
  2. I said this in the image above, but don’t embellish. Use that quote and boiler plate space wisely, but everything else should be pure facts.
  3. Don’t over optimize. As with any other form of content, don’t overdo it.
  4. Make the most of distribution services. If you’re using PRWeb, for example, be sure to choose relevant target industries, geographic distribution areas, social media, an image, etc.

Now make some waves and alert the press!

 

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