Formatting Your Releases For Fantastic Results

 February 12, 2012
One of the things we tend to take for granted when we write press releases is the format they are placed in. Whether from years of experience or a casual glance at an email or wire service such as PR Newswire we see them as a Headline, possible sub-heading, dateline, paragraphs and notes to editors to finish off. 

But in the age of Search Engine Optimization, Keywords, Tagging and Geo Location, is this still the most effective way of having your releases put together?

The good news is that the Release is still an important channel for any business or event. It should have a point, a reason for being sent and it should be as compact and direct as possible, and the story must be the star.  Ultimately, as long as who,why,what,where,when,which and how are covered and the writing is fine then you are in good shape.

That said, there are some 21st Century tweaks that can be applied when building a template for releases or formatting them for the web:

Images – Social media runs on images, pictures and visuals. People taking them, sharing them and now with Pinterest, using them to compose their profile – the modern press release should be no exception. Anything which can enhance the writing – and this could be a video, infographic, graph, picture or drawing will help the release and increase the chances of it getting read and shared beyond the confines of the platform it appears on.

Sharing – On the subject, make it easier for viewers to share the content. Look for embedding buttons for social media sites, blogs and other sharing options within your web pages or on the hosting site you are using. Research has shown that placing the buttons on or near the top of the page will increase the sharing of such releases.

Readability – The aim of the template should be to make reading your release as easy and simple as possible. You can use subheadings and bullet lists for this as it will give the reader an option to scan the release quickly and pick out the key data and points. Don’t forget to use bold type, different fonts or anchor text links to draw the eye to the key terms.  This approach improves reader engagement and the pieces that are highlighted are more likely to be shared, especially on social networks like Twitter where space is limited.

Contacting – Contact information on Press Releases is always critical and should now include email and social media profiles as well as the standard name, title and cell number. It should be at the top of the page, in a prominant position with links for readers to contact you directly.  Media professionals are used to be able to connect with others at the click of a button so make it easy for them and customers.

Display – Whatever format you decide on for your releases, make sure that it appears well in different browsers and social media networks. Not just on a desktop or a laptop but increasingly on a tablet and a smartphone screen too. Check that images and videos display and play correctly and that the release headline is the one that is shown when it is shared with a network.

Formatting is a very dry, unexciting topic but is increasingly becoming critical as the mediums used for reading and receiving press releases change and are updated on a monthly basis. If you take the time to set up and use a great template now, then it will save you a lot of time and effort in future and allow you to concentrate on the main attraction of any release – the writing!

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