A great press release can go along way in terms of gaining virtually free publicity for your business, especially in an increasingly digital media environment.

Learning to combine old tricks and new in your press release composition and distribution can help you leverage the power of both traditional media outlets, such as newspapers and magazines, and newer ones, such as blogs and social media networks, to effectively get your message to your markets.

What Has Changed?

A press release is defined as ‘a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value’ (Wikipedia).

Traditionally, when public relations and marketing professionals disseminated press releases to news media, that meant sending them to specific news editors and reporters via mail, fax, or email to consider running the story in print, or more recently, online.

However, as our focus increasingly shifts from print to digital, the role of mass media gatekeeper, normally reserved for editors and reporters, has expanded to include bloggers and regular Internet users who like to share stories they deem newsworthy with their friends and followers on social media sites. Public relations professionals must consider the power these new gatekeepers can have in propelling a story or brand message, since social networks can reach a large number of people if the story they post goes ‘viral’, or rapidly spreads across the Internet through endless networks of users.

As the PR landscape changes, certain techniques can help maximize exposure in this new landscape. For example, since online press releases are indexed by search engines, keyword optimization is a smart move. According to Melanie Waldmann, Social Media and Search Marketing Manager at Marketwire, 75% of public relations professionals now use keyword placement in their press releases. Releases can also be formatted with specific social media sites in mind, like Twitter, for instance, where headlines must fit within the 140-character status update limit.

Writing a Press Release -- Basic Tips

Though the press release has evolved to adapt to the increasingly digital world, some essential elements remain the same. Following are some basic tips for writing traditional press releases that have stood the test of time: