1. Make sure your press release is newsworthy. If it is truly a newsworthy story, editors are much more likely to use it.
2. If you are sending a release about a product or service, write a story about uses and benefits, not a blatant pitch for your business.
3. Write a compelling headline that makes people want to read more. We like to check the headlines we write using the free Headline Analyzer tool at www.aminstitute.com/headline/index.htm.
4. Use words or phrases in your headlines that connote excitement: suddenly, new, how to, introducing, announcing, free, limited time, first ever, dramatic results.
5. Put a two or three sentence summary right after the headline. It helps editors and general readers decide to keep on reading.
6. Always start the body of your press release with a dateline – i.e., your company’s location and a date: “MEMPHIS, TN, April 15, 2009 –” Start your copy right after the dash.
7. Don’t ever use expressions such as “XYZ Corporation is pleased to….” Nobody cares that you are pleased. They want to know why they should keep reading. They want to know what’s in it for them if they do.
8. Be wary of statistics, especially in headlines or opening statements. Statistics are innately boring. See if you can convert the statistic to a story. For example: Three out of four hosting resellers …
9. Lead off with the most important thing you have to say. The classic format for a news story is an inverted pyramid, with the most important points first and the least important ones last. In an inverted pyramid format, you can cut everything after the first two or three paragraphs and still convey the essence of your story.
10. Write mostly in the active voice – the passive voice tends to kill interest. The passive voice also changes the onus from the action, to the subject of the action. For example: Change “The XYZ control panel was preferred by 8 out of 10 users” [passive] to “Eight out of 10 users preferred the XYZ control panel.” [active].
11. Try to make your first sentence a short one – no more than 8 to 12 words, but don’t be slavish about it.
12. Break up your story with quotations from one or more authorities. Those authorities don’t always have to be your president or director of marketing. If it’s a release on a technical matter, your VP-IT might be a better authority.
13. If you want editors to use your release immediately, put the words “For Immediate Release” at the very top of your page. If it is for release on a specific day, put that at the top: “For Release after 3:00 p.m. April 15, 2009.”
14. If your press release is an announcement, state it as an announcement. If it is about a change or improvement to a product or service, try to tell it as a story built around the improvement.
15. If you are putting a URL in your press release, don’t just make it a link to your home page. Either create a special landing page for each release, or make the link to your newsroom, or to the specific product or service your release is about.
16. Always include contact information at the end of your release. If it is an electronic release, don’t put your email in the release, put a link to an email form – unless you like receiving lots of spam.
17. Salt your press release with SEO keywords.
18. Remember, all rules are merely guidelines.