Sunday, August 4, 2013

Press Release Format Tips

There's a standard format for press releases that columnists and reviewers expect to see.

If you use a significantly different format for your software news release, you may get some "originality points" from some of these editors. But most of them will think that you don't know how to format a press release properly, and that's going to lessen your chances of getting press coverage.

For the vast majority of software developers' press releases, the first line should say "For Immediate Release". If you're embargoing the press release until a specific date and time (for example, you're announcing information about your company's stock split, and you're required to deliver the information to the entire world at the same time), then say something like "For Release on December 12, 2012, 9:00am eastern time (GMT-5)". If you don't include a release line of some type, the editors will assume that you don't know what you're doing.

On the next line, type "Contact: " followed by the personal name, email address, and telephone number of the person whom the editors should call if they have a question about your announcement.

Next, type the headline (sometimes called a tag line). This is the title line that the bloggers and magazines will post and print to catch their readers' attention, and to entice them to read your announcement. Keep it short because most publications don't use long tag lines. Specify your best feature or benefit. Don't say meaningless things like "old is new again".

The first sentence of your press release should say four things: Your company name, the name of your application, the platform or operating system that the program requires, and a brief description. Say something like "Widget Corp has released version 5.0 of Widget, an iOS app that does this and that." Your second sentence should say why your software is different from - and better than - other applications in your software niche.

Continue building your press release with the most important information at the top of your write-up. This "inverted pyramid" style lets editors and bloggers grab any clump of information (starting at the top of your press release) with the assurance that they're grabbing the most important info. It takes a little practice to write in this inverted pyramid style because it forces you to organize the information about your software in an unusual way. Often, it creates a bit of repetition, and it separates ideas that might make more sense if they were combined. As you can imagine, it rarely makes sense to include two products in a single news release, because the second product will get lost at the bottom of the press release.

The length of your news release depends on a lot of things, including the complexity of your application. A single-function Windows utility requires a lot less explanation than a complex business application. Virtually every New Product Announcement can be shortened with no loss of quality. Look for noise words and phrases. Eliminate all of them.

Wrap up your press release with your firm's contact information. Say something like "Widget version 5.0 costs $39(US) and is available from Widget Corp, 123 South Street...". Include your URL and your info@ or support@ email address.

Next, skip a line and create a line with three "#" characters (signifying the end of the press release text.) Under the ###s, you can include notes to the editors such as "Editorial Evaluation Copy Available on Request" or "Visit the product-name press resources page on...".

You should try to stand out from the crowd. Don't attempt this by using a non-standard press release format. Instead, put yourself in the top ten percent of all press releases by using common words in simple sentences to write clearly about your application.

Now you know how to format a press release.

Those 250-word write-ups that you see in the computer magazines can now be about your software, not your competitors' desktop and smartphone apps.

Send press releases and get your share of the free publicity that newspapers, magazines, and blogs deliver.

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