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Editing Press Releases
A Beginners Guide
Syzygy




msg:930433
 9:59 pm on Nov 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

Press releases are a valuable source of content. However, most press releases need editing to some degree, as usually they are full of useless information – padding. Posting up press releases in their entirety will, in the main, cause your visitors to leave.

What follows then is a very basic attempt to show how press releases are made up and how they can be edited to your advantage. It is aimed at those new to, or with little experience of, editing releases.

This is not meant to be a lesson in journalism. The premise is that you do not want to rewrite the press release. You simply want to post it up on your site. However, what you want is the important information – not all the rubbish that comes with it. What this is then, I guess, is a lesson in basic editing.

The example I’ve created (based on typical press releases I see every day) is of a new product news announcement – just one type/style of press release.


Widget Technologies Announces the Launch of its Newest Revolutionary Wibble-Wobble Widget System™: Affordable Wibbly-Wobbly Widgets for all the Family at a Price that’s Right.

London, UK (February 30th, 2005): Widget Technologies (NYSE: WIDG), a leading developer of Widget Systems today announced the launch of it’s new Wibble-Wobble Widget System™, the latest addition to Widget Technologies expanding product range of market-leading, accessible, affordable and exciting Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems™.

The Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems™ provides users with exciting new options when it comes to creating wibbly-wobbly widgets at home. Simpler to use than all existing wibbly-wobbly widget systems on the market, the Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems™ from Widget Technologies, represents a paradigm shift in thinking for the Wibble-Wobble Widget sector.

Designed around the knowledge that Widgets wobble but the can’t fall down, the new Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ offers a range of new features not previously available to the user. These include:

* The dynamic Wibble-Wobble Widget holder – available in a range of colours.

* Built-in solar panels – so your Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ never stops working.

* Free Matching Wibble-Wobble Widget Accessory Pack.

The dynamic Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ was launched in London at “Widget World”, the annual trade exhibition for the Widget manufacturing sector. The Press were invited to the launch and much exposure within the trade sector is anticipated. Further launches at other Widget exhibitions around the world are also scheduled.

Like other Widget Technology products, the Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems™, incorporates really advanced technology developed in-house. For cost effectiveness assembly of the product is outsourced to China. The futuristic ergonomic casing - created by design specialists “Widge” - has already received three international design awards.

"The addition of the Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ is a major step toward creating the Widget Technology vision of providing accessible, powerful, yet cost-effective Widgets to every home,” said Bill Pillock, Chief Executive of Widget Technologies. “The Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ delivers exactly the right amount of wibbly-wobbly widgetyness and our customers understand this.”

Also contributing to the development of the Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ were Reginald Widgetson, Technlogy Officer, Susan Wibbledy, Software Development, and Deepak Wodget, Overseas Liasion.

About Widget Technologies:

Widget Technologies is a market leading developer of Widget System. Based in Outer Mongolia, the company’s goal is to have a widget in every home by the end of the decade. Employing 30,000 people in 156 locations around the globe, the company is committed to ensuring that its most important asset are the staff.

Since outsourcing it’s manufacturing to China, Widget Technologies has seen a 35% increase in pre-tax profit in the last quarter. Further increases are expected in the second and third quarters.

The now retired Wally Widget Snr, founded the company in 1952. Wally is a well-known philanthropist and collector of empty beer bottles. In 2004, Wally donated his collection of 1 million empty bottles to the Smithsonian Institute. The collection will go on display to the public in the spring of 2006.

More information about the company and its products is available at www.widget-technologies.com.

--- Ends ---

 

Syzygy




msg:930434
 10:05 pm on Nov 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

Okay, to me what I’ve posted above is a fairly typical press release announcing the launch of a new product. Although the wording of every press release is different, they’re usually made up of the same elements:

1. The hype (Hurrah – another new product launch)
2. The facts (The actual story)
3. More hype (This product will change the world forever)
4. The spokesperson (Blah, blah, blah…)
5. Meet the rest of the cast (Nobody wants to be left out)
6. Contact details (For more information. The end of the actual story itself)
7. About the company (Background information that’s rarely of use in this scenario).

Much of the information in the press release is not needed; it can be deleted or edited very simply. Let’s go through it bit by bit…

1. The headline and standfirst: - the hype

Widget Technologies Announces the Launch of its Latest Revolutionary Wibble-Wobble Widget System™: Affordable Wibbly-Wobbly Widgets for all the Family at a Price that’s Right.

London, UK (February 30th, 2005): Widget Technologies (NYSE: WIDG), a leading developer of Widget Systems today announced the launch of it’s new Wibble-Wobble Widget System™, the latest addition to Widget Technologies expanding product range of market-leading, accessible, affordable and exciting Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems™.

That’s not a headline it’s a monologue! Headlines nearly always need to be rewritten. This one is way too long and lacks impact.

Press releases invariably have lots of information no one needs. Get rid of the date stamp and the stock exchange stuff. Delete the trademark (™) symbol throughout the document. In an editorial context, ie, in an article, you do not have to use the trademark symbol. The same applies to ‘®’.

You’ll need to change the reference to ‘today’ – it won’t be ‘today’ tomorrow…

Much of the text in this standfirst is not needed. Stick to the story – a new product has been released. Information beyond this fact is pretty irrelevant.

2. The Facts – flavoured with a pinch of hype:

The Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems™ provides users with exciting new options when it comes to creating wibbly-wobbly widgets at home. Simpler to use than all existing wibbly-wobbly widget systems on the market, the Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems™ from Widget Technologies, represents a paradigm shift in thinking for the Wibble-Wobble Widget sector.

Designed around the knowledge that Widgets wobble but the can’t fall down, the new Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ offers a range of new features not previously available to the user. These include:

* The dynamic Wibble-Wobble Widget holder – available in a range of colours.

* Built-in solar panels – so your Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ never stops working.

* Free Matching Wibble-Wobble Widget Accessory Pack.

Here is the story – the facts. Not much is there. That’s why press releases are invariably padded out with so much superfluous information. Just remember that facts are good. Facts are your friends and you will want to keep them.

This section does need a bit of editing. Superlatives need to be deleted. Remember, when you put this on your site, you are presenting it as being in your own words. Do you think the product is exciting? Are you saying that it is ”Simpler to use than all existing wibbly-wobbly widget systems on the market…” No, I didn’t think so. The fact that it is “Simple to use” might be worth holding on to. Your visitors might appreciate knowing this.

3. More hype…

The dynamic Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ was launched in London at “Widget World”, the annual trade exhibition for the Widget manufacturing sector. The Press were invited to the launch and much exposure within the trade sector is anticipated. Further launches at other Widget exhibitions around the world are also scheduled.

Like other Widget Technology products, the Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems™, incorporates really advanced technology developed in-house. For cost effectiveness assembly of the product is outsourced to China. The futuristic ergonomic casing - created by design specialists “Widge” - has already received three international design awards.

Remember, we’re dealing with a story about a new product. So, what’s all this stuff got to do with it? Will your visitors care where it was launched? I doubt it. Delete it. They may be interested in the development part though. You decide whether to cut it or keep it… And, hang on; what’s this last bit – award winning. This is definitely news.

Something else to watch out for: the product name is mentioned way to often. The company – like most – believes that repetition will reinforce brand and product awareness. No. It’s just annoying. Trim down the amount of times the name-dropping is done. Use things like “the product…”, or “the system…” instead.

4/5. Introducing the spokesperson and the rest of the cast

"The addition of the Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ is a major step toward creating the Widget Technology vision of providing accessible, powerful, yet cost-effective Widgets to every home,” said Bill Pillock, Chief Executive of Widget Technologies. “The Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ delivers exactly the right amount of wibbly-wobbly widgetyness and our customers understand this.”

Also contributing to the development of the Wibble-Wobble Widget System™ were Reginald Widgetson, Technlogy Officer, Susan Wibbledy, Software Development, and Deepak Wodget, Overseas Liasion.

The company’s corporate vision is of no benefit to anyone other than the shareholders and the financiers. Cut it out - now!

The introduction of the rest of the team really is to ensure that no one feels left out. It is only of value to those mentioned, their spouse, parents, kids and their mates in the pub. “Oh look, I’ve got my name in print…!” You know what to do with this – delete it…Don't make their day!

6. About the company

About Widget Technologies:

Widget Technologies is a market leading developer of Widget System. Based in Outer Mongolia, the company’s goal is to have a widget in every home by the end of the decade. Employing 30,000 people in 156 locations around the globe, the company is committed to ensuring that its most important asset are the staff.

Since outsourcing it’s manufacturing to China, Widget Technologies has seen a 35% increase in pre-tax profit in the last quarter. Further increases are expected in the second and third quarters.

The now retired Wally Widget Snr, founded the company in 1952. Wally is a well-known philanthropist and collector of empty beer bottles. In 2004, Wally donated his collection of 1 million empty bottles to the Smithsonian Institute. The collection will go on display to the public in the spring of 2006.

What’s this stuff for then? Well, if you were going to completely rewrite this press release, or incorporate the information into a larger editorial, then some of the background information might be useful to you as padding for your story.

As all we’re looking to do is tidy up this press release, this information is of no use to us whatsoever. Out with the editor’s scissors once more - cut.

7. Contact details:

Well; they’re the contact details, aren’t they!

Bearing these points in mind, all that’s left to do is to edit the press release.


New Award Winning, Solar Powered Widget System

Energy efficient Wibble-Wobble Widget System launched by Widget Technologies offers a new range of features and options for creating wibbly-wobbly widgets at home.

Simpler to use and designed around the knowledge that Widgets wobble but the can’t fall down, the new Wibble-Wobble Widget System offers a range of new features not previously available to the user. These include:

* Built-in solar panels – so your Wibble-Wobble Widget System never stops working.

* The dynamic Wibble-Wobble Widget holder – available in a range of colours.

* Free Matching Wibble-Wobble Widget Accessory Pack.

Like other Widget Technology products, the Wibble-Wobble Widget Systems, incorporates really advanced technology developed in-house. The futuristic ergonomic casing - created by design specialists “Widge” - has already received three international design awards.

More information is available at www.widget-technologies.com

--- Ends ---

So, the headline is rewritten. As the standfirst was so bad it was easier to use some of the pertinent detail in the following paragraph. All the superfluous information has been deleted and now we just has the facts. The original word count was 501 and now we’re down to just 137.

Easy.

As mentioned earlier, this is merely an attempt to provide an insight into how best to edit press releases without having to rewrite them in their entirety. Others may have different perspectives and ideas about how to achieve the same goal. All opinions, comments and discussion welcome.

Hope it makes sense and offers something of use!

Syzygy

zulu_dude




msg:930435
 9:59 am on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Excellent post Syzygy... I was looking for the reverse question (i.e. how to write a press release) and this has provided some valuable insight!

coburn




msg:930436
 12:31 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Wow Syzygy! When you offered to write a review in a previous post, wasn't expecting such a thorough and insightful coverage.

Do you think it worthwhile making a mention of relevant sites? Such as prweb, emailwire.com, prleap.com - and how to use them?

rogerd




msg:930437
 1:16 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Nice posts, Syzygy.

I'd add that if you are optimizing the press release for electronic distribution, your objectives may change a bit, i.e., the need to get keywords in the headline, links in the body, etc. Purely from a document length perspective, the first release is probably closer to optimal for Google News & Yahoo News success.

In the same way that superb website copywriting is sometimes at odds with SEO, creating a press release that attracts and holds media attention is sometimes at odds with being at the top of the news search results for your keywords. And, just as with website copy, creating a press release that is optimized yet still compelling takes extra effort, but it's effort that will pay off in traffic and media pickups.

WebPixie




msg:930438
 1:44 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks for taking the time to put all that information together. I know it answered some questions for me.

mercy buckets

Syzygy




msg:930439
 2:26 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

...if you are optimizing the press release for electronic distribution, your objectives may change a bit...

Thanks for pointing that out, rogerd. Quite right too. I had meant to clarify right at the start that this related to editing out the rubbish associated with press releases - not optimising.

Syzygy

ken_b




msg:930440
 2:33 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Editing vs optimizing...

Is there any validity to using both versions edited and optimizied?

Let's say you get a pr and edit it for brevity and clarity but add a "read more" type link to the full optimized version on a seperate page.

Would you get the best of both worlds doing that? Or are you likely to run into some problems?

musicales




msg:930441
 4:32 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is great. I would also love some kind of guide to what to do with a press release once its written. I personally wouldn't know where to start when it comes to posting one.

ProTalker




msg:930442
 6:05 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great post. From my standpoint as a UK trade press editor of 20 years' experience, I'd urge anyone producing press releases, particularly in the business to business sector, to consider the recipient, above all. And if that means writing more then one version of the release, it's time well spent.

At one extreme, you might be writing a release simply to try to attract the attention of editors who would then get their own reporters to follow up the story (for example, major newspapers). That would require a really punchy release, with as much emphasis as possible on why running that release would benefit the publication's readers.

In the middle, you have the bulk of publications, which will not follow up the release with you but will to some extent rewrite it in their words. These require all the facts to be in place, clearly.

Finally, there are the online publications which will run the release largely as-is, with just a few house style tweaks (don't neglect these publications, some have the widest coverage in the world now). For these, you don't have to sell the story, you have to sell the news. You need to be writing for the end-user who will discover the news online through search engines. And that's where getting the keywords in, using as many different combinations as possible, comes in.

Remember, this is a *fantastic* shortcut to high search engine result positions: some online publications have good page rank, and you can ride on the back of this. They might have first place for a search term all sewn up, and instead of competing with a million other sites in the search engine results, you're just competing with the other pages on that publication's site to be the result (or one of the two results) which displays.

toprank




msg:930443
 8:08 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is great. I would also love some kind of guide to what to do with a press release once its written. I personally wouldn't know where to start when it comes to posting one.

Definitely post press releases to your web site. In fact, if you plan on posting regularly, you might consider managing the press release portion of your web site with a blog content management system so that content can be subscribed to via RSS and syndicated on other sites.

Also distribute your press release through a news wire service. Traditional wire services like PR Newswire and Business Wire are a little expensive though.

You might try PRWeb, PR.com, PRLeap or PRZoom. Each offer a paid and a free option. The more you pay, the better the visibility of your release.

If you know your target audience and the publications they read, then find out the editors and journalists that write for those publications and send an email to them with an excerpt of the release and a link to the full release (on your site where they can subscribe) and your contact information.

If you search Google for "Lowdown on press release optmization" you'll find a more extensive article on what to do with your press release.

conor




msg:930444
 11:51 pm on Nov 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

For those not too acustomed to writing press releases, this is the format that I usually follow:

Headline:

Make your Headline a single sentence of well thought out, Keyword enhanced, creative, grammatically correct English, which compels a visitor to click on it.

Summary:

The summary is the snippet that Internet users will first see of your press release. Make it attention grabbing and interested enough for visitors to click the headline and link through to the rest of your press release. Focus on who, what, when, where, why and how. A poor summary that doesn't entice will not get your important news read.

Body:

City, State or Country (SANEPR) Month, Day, Year. Always begin with a correctly formatted 'Date Line', recognizing that it can take 2 days for a news wire service to approve and distribute most press releases. Expand on the information in your summary paragraph, in an interesting way. Keep the visitors attention, now that you have gained it. Avoid using Jargon, too many adjectives, complex language and long sentences. Remember to reiterate your most important message and repeat the most important keywords in the first paragraph.

The body of your press release should always contain more than one paragraph. Use the second paragraph to affirm credibility. "I generally use quotes, usually in the second paragraph of the Press release that I write, to add a human factor and weight" Stated, Conor D O'Connor, CEO of Sane Systems S.L. Ensure that the quote is accompanied by information and keywords that have relevance and add value, rather than simply inflate an executives ego.

The third paragraph can be used to expand more detail and include more in depth facts. Try using Bullets to:

* Expand detail in a reader friendly way
* Not repeat laborious detail
* Add Keyword Synonyms
* Provide legitimate, Keyword rich anchor text links deep into your site
* Cover broader areas of the subject matter, quickly and concisely
* Hold interest

The final paragraph of the body should always re-affirm and summarize the key points of your press release, but not repeat what has already been stated. You can include product availability, trademark acknowledgment, and finally a call to action such as 'For more information' or 'for a demonstration' please contact: accompanied by your organizations contact details.
About Your Company: This should be short and informative corporate back ground that can give an insight to your companies focus, and achievements. This should not be a detailed rendition of your organizations history, but more of a very brief mission statement along with what your company actually does.

CONTACT INFORMATION:
A person in your Organisation that regularly deals with media and marketing contacts.
Their position
Your companies Name
Your Companies Full address
Postal Code
Country
Telephone Number
Fax Number
[your-companies-web-address.com...]
Include a safe harbor statement, if applicable.
Your entire press release should be less than 2 pages of A4 and less than 600 words, 3000 characters.

Add these to denote the end of your Press release. ###

edit_g




msg:930445
 4:45 am on Nov 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

A little practical note from me - when I go over press releases I like to put a diagonal line through each word with a pencil as I read through it. It helps you focus on each word and, since your brain has a habit of skipping words it doesn't consider important, helps to make sure that you read each one.

There's nothing worse (well, there's lots of things that are worse, but you know what I mean) than finding that a press release that you approved has gone out with a spelling or grammar mistake.

SEOtop10




msg:930446
 4:16 am on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

A small tip about the heading and description of the press release (works with headlines everywhere)-

Use words like 'these' which are only answered in the body of the release. The reader's brain will not rest in peace until the curiosity is satisfied.

Also a question format (speciallyin online releases) works very well.

"Which of these SEO mistakes can cost you dearly on Google?"

malachite




msg:930447
 10:54 am on Nov 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

Always begin with a correctly formatted 'Date Line'

I'd suggest giving dates in written, and not numeric format, to avoid misunderstandings.

For example, "Super Widgets (USA) will hold a press conference at 10am on 8/7/2006 at the Wonderful Hotel in Hyde Park, London".

Was the press release written by an American or a non-American? Is the press conference on 8th July 2006 or August 7th 2006?

Non-Americans will automatically read the numeric format at 8th July.

cellularnews




msg:930448
 11:07 am on Nov 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

And contact phone numbers MUST always include the country dial code.

Just because a company has its HQ in (for example) France - that does not mean the PR agency is French - it could be Amercian, or British.

SEOtop10




msg:930449
 11:42 am on Nov 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

Very vital - press release must always be written in third person and without any hype.

You have to assume that you are the reporter and are writing about the company. A reporter will be hardly inclined to shower unlimited praise on the company or glorify it.

annej




msg:930450
 5:27 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is great information. I had given up on most press releases simply because they were so boring and long. Yet it's a great way to add content. I just have one question. Once it is rewritten by me do I still call it a press release?

SEOtop10




msg:930451
 5:45 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

You or your company issues a press release to announce some development of interest to the general people. This is for assistance of the press people who are supposed to create this themselves but you are helping them out by offering a base work.

If you keep it hype free and objective and write in 3rd person as if the reporter has written this, they publish this with minimum edits. Once your release raises a red flag, the reporter may publish it with edits or trash it totally depending on the importance of the news.

dauction




msg:930452
 5:50 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

Fromedit-g
...when I go over press releases I like to put a diagonal line through each word with a pencil ..

whats a "pencil"?

;)

Syzygy




msg:930453
 6:05 pm on Nov 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

I just have one question. Once it is rewritten by me do I still call it a press release?

When you add it to your site you can call it what ever you like. It can be, for example, "new product news", "industry insights", "marketplace", or a million and one variations on a theme - whatever suits.

You get the idea...

Syzygy

dollarshort




msg:930454
 1:53 am on Dec 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Is it ok to re-post press releases from sites like prnewswire?

Syzygy




msg:930455
 10:35 pm on Dec 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

Is it ok to re-post press releases from sites like prnewswire?

Take them from sources such as Prnewswire and post on your site?

Yes you can. Organisations placing press releases on such sites seek as much publicity/coverage for them as possible.

Syzygy

Harry




msg:930456
 12:49 am on Dec 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

According to some sources from the PR news wires I have spoken to, the moment you change something in the release, it becomes your article. Therefore, you hold a copyright on them.

Sometimes, some wet behind the ears vendor thinks he can "control" who plublishes his press releases and will try to stop you from modifying them. Depending on how much autorithy you wiled, you can tell them off! ;)

Press releases are always fair game, and trying to restrict their diffusion defeats the purpose of what they were created for.

Another thing that should have been mentioned in the excellent post that started this thread, is to publish corrections to facts from releases that vendors submit after the fact.

Finally, always remember that both news sites and vendors need each other. It's a symbiotic relationship, similar to vendors and their customers. Respect each other.

joeking




msg:930457
 12:02 am on Dec 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

Fantastic thread - thread of the year in my book.

Joe King

webseo2121




msg:930458
 1:22 am on Dec 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

"You or your company issues a press release to announce some development of interest to the general people"

I can see how PRs are great for announcing new product releases/ devts eg software releases.. however...

has anyone used press releases in other ways?

Eg when promoting affiliate programs (eg ebooks, online services) - not affiliate programs related to new software or new products?

What angle did you take so that it 'complied' as a genuine PR?

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