Practical Ecommerce

How to Write an Online Press Release

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.

Today’s web-driven world makes it possible for companies large and small to create news simply by writing and publishing their own newsworthy content. The way to get started is by writing and sharing powerful press releases online. Thanks to the power of today’s social web, the elitism of public relations is gone. Nowadays, many organizations do their own PR. This article will explain how to write online press releases that build credibility, visibility and salability.

Press releases have a format that helps keep news pithy and powerful. Thanks to search engines, press releases are not just read by the media. Current and prospective customers, who want to be educated and empowered, also read them. Think of a press release as a way to spoon-feed news that is easily consumed. Here are the necessary components to writing an effective online press release.

Pick a Topic

Picking a topic may sound like a no-brainer. But this is the point where many businesses get stumped. They don’t realize how much of their day-to-day work is newsworthy. Understand what news really means. Merriam-Webster defines news as “something having a specified influence or effect” and “matter that is newsworthy.”

Think of news as information that is educational, helpful, or relevant to your target market. Online press release topics could include company news, new product releases, educational thought leadership about a current event — educating beyond what the media is sharing, while linking your brand to news that is being discussed and shared.  Press releases  communicate stories that help people understand your brand better.

For example, a nonprofit organization called Explore Ecology — which my company supports — specializes in environmental education and art discovery. An event last year called “One Night Stand” was such a success that it’s now held annually. Explore Ecology wanted a release that educated local journalists, the media at large, and potential attendees. The topic is event-focused to educate and build awareness.

7 Points to Address

After a topic is selected, and before you start writing, address the points below as it relates to your topic.

  1. Who
  2. What
  3. When
  4. Where
  5. Why
  6. How
  7. Who Cares

These points will need to be woven into your release. Having them all noted helps you plan and execute better.

Title

The title of a press release is paramount. It needs to fit on one line and summarize the entire theme of the release. It should be descriptive and also capture a reader’s attention. It should be clear, concise, and interesting.

Here’s our title for the Explore Ecology event:

Sensational One Night Stand Art Event Returns for Second Year

 

Beneath the title there is a subhead, a critical section with two lines of italicized text to support the title, but provide more depth. Our subhead of the Explore Ecology press release is:

Santa Barbara art lovers to choose from the works of 200-plus professional artists to benefit Art from Scrap, a program of Explore Ecology

 

Quote

Most press releases include a quote, usually from a leader at the organization. Quotes in press releases originated to give the media or a journalist an approved statement from a company leader. Quotes in online press releases still provide an approved media statement, but also provide a human component. The quote needs to include who is saying it and usually his or her role within the organization. If people outside the organization are cited — like happy customers or board members — their connection to the company should be clarified. Any quotes need to be approved by the person before they go live.

Here is our quote in the Explore Ecology press release:

“Last year’s event was amazing, with so much great art and positive energy, and this year’s One Night Stand is shaping up to be even better,” said Executive Director Cay Sanchez. “We have a larger space to accommodate more art, more guests, and more excitement! This is just a fantastic way to raise awareness for the environment and creativity, and to keep our programs funded to spread the message even further.”

 

Body

The body of the release is where you tell — and sell — your story. This is where you make sure your seven key points are addressed, starting with the location where the release was written. This is standard practice for most press releases.

A press release is a good way to share a focused piece of news.

 

Here is our entire release for Explore Ecology.

Sensational One Night Stand Art Event Returns for Second Year

Santa Barbara art lovers to choose from the works of 200-plus professional artists to
benefit Art from Scrap, a program of Explore Ecology

SANTA BARBARA, CA – For the second year in a row, on the evening of August 11, 2012, Santa Barbara’s Art from Scrap offers art lovers, collectors, and artists an exciting opportunity to participate in a One Night Stand at Brooks Institute of Photography’s Gallery 27 in downtown Santa Barbara. One Night Stand (ONS) is an art lover’s dream and an annual fundraiser for Art from Scrap at which, for one night only, more than 200 nine-by-nine-inch works of art will be exhibited for purchase. Last year’s sold-out event attracted in excess of 400 patrons and artists, many of whom purchased original artwork, raising $40,000 to support Art from Scrap’s mission of environmental education and creative art programming. This year’s incarnation of the ONS benefit is also in support of Art from Scrap, which is a program of Explore Ecology, a leading environmental education and art organization, now in its 21st year of encouraging creative expression in the arts and promoting a greater understanding of environmental issues.

Contemporary artists from around the country have been personally invited to contribute artwork in all mediums. The list of artists who have accepted the ONS challenge grows daily. Local art legends Nicole Strasburg, Jesse Alexander, Eric Beltz, Hilary Brace, Phoebe Brunner, and John Iwerks; environmental artist Laura Lynch; painter John Nava; actor/musician Jeff Bridges; architects Fred Sweeney and Barry Berkus, renowned artists Ann Hamilton, Charles Arnoldi, Nancy Monk, and J. Shea; and many more have already contributed their work for what promises to be the art event of the year. To accommodate the festivities this year, ONS is being held in an expanded area of Gallery 27 at Brooks Institute at 27 East Cota Street.

“Last year’s event was amazing, with so much great art and positive energy, and this year’s One Night Stand is shaping up to be even better,” said Executive Director Cay Sanchez. “We have a larger space to accommodate more art, more guests, and more excitement! This is just a fantastic way to raise awareness for the environment and creativity, and to keep our programs funded to spread the message even further.”

Aside from the fact that it’s a one-night-only event, One Night Stand has an additional enticing element of surprise: each and every work of art will be unidentified. Artists’ names will be revealed only after their artwork is purchased. Each work of art will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis for a pre-set rate of $200. The evening also includes a Silent Auction, festivities, food, a Patron bar, and music.

Tickets are available online, onsite at Art from Scrap (302 East Cota Street), or by calling (805) 884-0459 x17. General Entry (7 p.m.) is $25 advanced purchase or $30 at the door. Early Entry (6:30 p.m.) tickets are $100 advanced purchase and $125 at the door. Special group ticket packages and sponsorship opportunities are also available online. Visit www.OneNightStandAFS.com for more information.

 

Boilerplate

The last piece of the online press release goes under the body text. It is a short summary — called the “boilerplate” — about the organization.  This summary is often the same in all press releases. It is a statement that the organization approves the use of the release, while also allowing customers and prospects to learn more. A boilerplate should include who your organization is, what you do, and whom you serve. Explore Ecology grew from an entity called Art From Scrap, which offers environmental education. Since Art From Scrap is more known in the community, this press release has a boilerplate for both organizations. Sometimes press releases that feature two organizations will have both company boilerplates.

Here are the two boilerplates.

About Art from Scrap: Art from Scrap (AFS) is Santa Barbara’s Environmental Education and Art Center. Starting out in 1990 as a ReUse retail store, an Arts Center, and an environmental education program, AFS has expanded to help tens of thousands of students throughout Santa Barbara County to understand the importance of conserving their environment through reducing waste, improving water quality, and gardening. As its programs have expanded over the past two decades, AFS outgrew its name, and has since evolved into Explore Ecology, an environmental education and art discovery program that brings the ReUse retail store, art workshops, and environmental outreach programs under one umbrella.

 

About Explore Ecology: Explore Ecology is an environmental education and creative art discovery organization that evolved out of Art from Scrap, which brings an array of programs to the community in an effort to encourage people to think creatively through hands-on science exploration and art discovery. The programs bring together environmental awareness and artistic creativity to create a connection between people and their environment, and encourage individuals to pro-actively effect positive environmental change through individual actions and community projects, with a focus on teaching about the interconnectedness of environmental issues.

 

Links

Online press releases build credibility and salability while also supporting search visibility. When appropriate, include links to pages so readers can learn more. The actual press release for Explore Ecology has links back to its website and the One Night Stand event. Links can also include descriptive phrases — not just company names — to help with search engine optimization.

Release Date and Press Contact

The press release should indicate if it is available “For Immediate Release” or on a certain date. Most are available immediately. Provide a press contact for more details. This should be someone who can represent organization and who is knowledgeable about the content in the release.

Distribution

Once the release is complete, add it to the “Press” or “News” page of your website. Sent it to local media and distribute it on various online press release channels. You can search the web for online press release distribution channels. I will be writing more about this in future articles.

Here is Explore Ecology’s press page.

And here is the full, final press release.

Summary

Online public relations can become a powerful piece of your marketing puzzle. If you want to get your organization in the news, publish your own content to help make that happen.

Lorrie Thomas Ross

Lorrie Thomas Ross

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Comments ( 9 )

  1. Rahman Mehraby August 7, 2012 Reply

    I like the 7th point: “Who Cares”. You need to know your audience when you write a press release. Otherwise, you cannot connect with them. Also, you have to give them what they want. This is what they care for. So, the news is what they want and the story addresses them. This is a successful press release.

    Rahman Mehraby
    TraveList Marketing Blog

  2. Micah August 8, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the breakdown on this Lorrie,

    I agree with You and Rahman, it’s all about knowing who your speaking to.

    Btw, my brother Aaron Lamar and I took one of your Online and Social marketing courses and loved it. We are still using your concepts in our business today. Thanks for your insight.

    Micah-

  3. Lorrie Thomas Ross August 29, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Rahman and Micah for the comments. I remember Aaron (loved having him as a student!) It means so much to know my concepts are still being applied! I am taking my lessons to online video on lynda.com – check them out! http://www.lynda.com/Lorrie-Thomas-Ross/1019746-1.html

  4. Susan September 6, 2012 Reply

    I was under the impression that online releases should be shorter. The release you wrote was just like a print one with hyperlinks. I was thinking we should write a blurb and then hyperlink to a web page with more description.

  5. Insos October 20, 2012 Reply

    Our website . vocies. com is constantly writing and releasing press releases for our company as well as for our members. We even have a product we sell for Press Release Writing and Distribution. . vocies. com/webstore/press. htmlOnline Press Releases do wonders for online websites. Every time we post we see a jump in traffic to our website or to the sites we write about in our Press Releases. LauryndaCustomer Care ManagerVoices. com

  6. Lorrie June 21, 2013 Reply

    Susan,
    Online releases don’t have to follow the old-rules one-page limit. The one pager is a guideline to help encourage writers to keep it to “just the facts” but it was also a rule when we used to FAX releases (to save costs). If your content is helpful, relevant and useful and it exceeds a page a little, that is fine!
    Virtual Marketing Hugs,
    Lorrie

  7. Brad Hines July 25, 2013 Reply

    Anyone skeptical about the nature of press releases I tell that my first one I ever wrote when I was 22 and didn’t even have my business degree yet, became a two part front page story to the USA today. While not typical, it does illustrate that if you give media outlets something you haven’t heard before, and in an articulate way, anything is possible.

    http://www.bradfordhines.com

  8. sam November 22, 2015 Reply

    If anyone looking to submit press release the can use our free press release submission

    we dont allow spam content, and use format given in this article.

  9. Andras Tamas May 19, 2017 Reply

    Straightforward breakdown Lorrie.
    Invaluable information, definitely worthwhile investing reading it.

    Thank you!
    Andras