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Building a Better Mousetrap with your Press Release Format

August 28, 2017  - Tips for Small Business
Tips for Formatting SMB Press Releases

The tried and true press release as a communication vehicle for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) all over the world follows a certain format, but it has changed in recent years. One word to describe the new formatting style of today's modern press release would be robust. And part of that robustness includes multimedia and invisible, yet very important, search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

A press release still answers the important five W and one H questions that we covered in our first post of this PR series and delivers the same information. However, it's the way companies format the press release that make it more digestible, informational, entertaining and discoverable. This makes todays press release a richer and more impactful communication for companies to use in their arsenal.

So how can you take your standard press release information and, as the old saying goes, build a better mousetrap? You start with a little cheese . . . and we have some additional tips that can help.

The headline is your cheese.

It's what grabs the readers' attention, draws them in and keeps them reading. The headline should be provocative to break through the noise and catch your targeted audience's eye. Think like a journalist and envision your headline as a front-page newspaper story. Is it catchy? Is it smart? Pithy? Does it use a colon to link artful to exposition?

Keep your headline under 70 characters for better search engine pick up, so consider elaborating your main thought in the subhead. The subhead can offer more information, and if two supportive thoughts are needed, one semicolon can be used. If a second semicolon is utilized then anything beyond that is dropped from wire service feeds.

Give your headline the right appeal.

  • Be direct: Be catchy enough to capture a reader without being misleading or so convoluted in the statement they don't understand what you are announcing.
  • Think branding: Include the company name in the headline and in the first paragraph for better SEO visibility. Headline conventions include using present tense and omitting "a" and "the" as well as forms of the verb "to be" in certain contexts.
  • Don't over-capitalize: The first word should be capitalized as should all proper nouns. Most headline words appear in lower-case letters. Do not capitalize every word.

Multimedia is your sticky strip.

We have all experienced how a great photo, and especially video, captures people's attention. Why not add a video to help tell your story and make sure it sticks with your readers?

There are a lot of video options available – from simple, raw videos taken by your smartphone, to video that has been manipulated in a video tool online, to professional videos. If you can brand the video, that's even better for viral reach. With the almost daily consumption of videos, the good news is you don't need to go high end. You will want to present your company or product well, so look for tools that let your video production shine. Also, your video may be driven from live taping or animated DIY videos. Just make sure you brand your video by including your website and company contact information. Have it tell a story or showcase your company in a great way.

PR Newswire looked back at news releases in January 2016 and found those that included embedded images received an average of 1.4 times more views than text-only press releases. Releases that included video scored even higher, averaging 2.8 times more views than text-only – double the performance of releases that included images.

Optimizing the images you include furthers your reach.

  • Google Images receives a huge amount of search traffic and, more importantly, can drive readers back to your release if tagged correctly.
  • Optimize images by including clear file names which accurately describe the image and incorporate a keyword. For example, your image will become searchable with "Product Name.jpg" rather than "DSC_1234.jpg". Include a descriptive caption for any multimedia asset distributed.
  • Lastly, when thinking about images also think about your company logo. Be sure to upload and include your logo in every release for visual branding.

Spring and hammer of SEO.

One of the most important pieces of the mouse trap is the spring and hammer. It's what the mouse doesn't see (until it's too late) but is set ahead of time and is ready to do its job. Search engine optimization can also be considered a transparent but vital element, along with keywords and hyperlinked text.

Most press release distribution services offer add-ons that can be worthwhile and should be considered as part of your distribution strategy:

  • SEO enhancement options
  • Opt for “do-follow” hyperlinks. Additional PR backlinks will help your website.
  • Expand distribution to hit more major outlets. It will cost you, but depending on the importance of the release, could be well worth it.

The final hold.

Congratulations – you caught your reader. Now what are you going to do with the audience that has read through your news release to the end? Think about how you want to insert a Call to Action (CTA). Will you offer a hyperlink to your sales department? A link to register for an event? Or do you have a marketing asset that they can view or download? Make sure you use this opportunity to get another chance to interact.

Also, it's important to offer contact details for any customer, partner, or journalist that wants to learn more. It seems simple, but there are releases that skip this crucial element. You should be sure to include at the very end of the release, justified left, the following:

  • Official company name
  • PR contact
  • Telephone with proper country/city codes and extension numbers
  • Email
  • Website address

Formatting your news release isn't just selecting a font size or style. It's about incorporating the available formatting tools and the right multi-media choices to deliver a rich, robust release that packs a punch. Pictures, video, and even audio files are intrinsically worthwhile multimedia elements that will help drive that desirable viral tenacity that equates to great content marketing and highly-effective branding.

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