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The Art and Science of Writing Press Releases
Blending Art and Science in Press Releases and Business Writing
Contemporary business writing offers an impressive array of practical examples that illustrate how the diverse worlds of art and science can be effectively combined. In particular, an effective press release requires both artistic and scientific skills to “make it work.”
For example, both readers and search engines are likely to devalue business writing (such as press releases) that does not include appealing (and informative) graphics and video content. However, entertaining visual images do not replace the need for a press release writer to observe basic scientific principles as well. In today’s evolving digital marketplace, the underlying science for press releases currently involves a challenging combination of search engine practices, persuasive writing, strategic planning, marketing and business psychology. How many business owners and managers are prepared to juggle all of those balls capably?
If you’re looking for business writing tips about press releases and other specialized written content such as white papers and proposals, the following Hub sections will get you started on your journey:
- Suggested Press Release “Rules”
- Why Organizations Often Overlook Business Writing
- Business Writing Questions That Need to Be Asked
- How Long Should an Effective Business Proposal Be?
- Helpful Quotes About Business Writing
Easy-to-read is hard to write.— Pam Zollman
9 Suggested Press Release “Rules” to Observe
One of the recurring difficulties when business owners and managers write a press release is knowing what to do and how to do it. With this in mind, here is a short list of recommended rules and guidelines to follow:
- Remember Google: “No Follow” (aka nofollow) links
- Insist on Original Content
- Include an Image and Video
- Avoid Misleading Claims
- Use Third Person Viewpoint (she, he, they)
- Limit Length to 500 Words or Less
- Explain the “5 Ws” in the 1st Paragraph
- Choose the Best Time = 8 am to 11 am (Most Cases)
- Avoid Monday, Friday and Weekends (Usually)
Search engine guidelines are constantly evolving — a classic example of “A Work in Progress.” Unfortunately, some of the practices observed by Google and other search engines are subject to interpretation (or misinterpretation in all too many situations involving business writing and press releases). When writing a press release, you will need to blend common sense with published guidelines for linking practices. For example, the current prevailing wisdom is to use “nofollow” (aka no follow) links in a press release. Why? In part, because Google says so.
But this is where common sense comes into play. The primary purpose of a press release should be to inform the public about new products, services and business activities. Links are truly a small part of that strategy — and either “Follow” or “No Follow” links will accomplish the mission. By using “nofollow” links, however, search engines are likely to treat your press release with a little more respect when search engine results are calculated.
Achieving success with concise press release content is frequently an easier mission to accomplish by including such visually appealing items as relevant videos and textual graphics. Keep in mind that many readers of press releases will "scan" instead of reading everything from start to finish. A short video and graphics with textual information should convey all (or most) key points contained in the press release.
If you aren't sure about the "Five Ws," here they are — (W)ho, (W)hat, (W)hen, (W)here and (W)hy. Here is an example that complies with all of the above "rules": Press Release Example.
Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.— Mark Twain
Why Do Organizations Overlook Business Writing?
If you are not treating business writing with a high priority, you are not alone! Here are eight of the most common reasons that business writing is frequently overlooked:
- Insufficient Awareness of Specialized Business Writing Strategies
- Unwillingness to Pay for Business Writing Help
- Don’t Realize That Business Writing Help Is Needed
- Not Enough Time
- Resistance to Change
- Not Sure What Needs to Be Done
- Lack of Business Writing Skills
- Failure to Ask the Right Questions
If one or more of the above descriptions applies to your organization, you have just discovered an effective way to improve your results — by paying more attention to high-quality business writing.
7 Business Writing Questions to Ask
In both personal and business settings, questions can be more important than answers — this is precisely why "Asking the Right Questions" is so critical. Here are seven examples of questions that should be asked about press releases and other forms of business writing:
- Should “Free” Press Releases Be Avoided?
- What Are Unsolicited Business Proposals?
- How Can Business Writing Skills Be Improved?
- What Is the Most Effective Length for Business Communication?
- What Are White Papers?
- Why Are Unique Images and Videos More Effective?
- How Much Does High-Quality Business Writing Cost?
How Long Should an Effective Business Proposal Be?
The answer in a surprising number of cases — one page.
How much can you really say in one page? Depending on spacing and font size, one “traditional” page can typically range from 200 to 400 words — although a “digital page” on the Internet is frequently much longer. With numbers like that, you must clearly choose your words very carefully. This can be be a difficult assignment even for the most experienced writer.
“The One-Page Proposal” by Patrick Riley will help get you in the right frame of mind for this imposing chore. Even if you intend to hire a business writing expert to help you prepare your own one-page proposal, Riley’s book is “must reading” — at a minimum, it will provide readers with a better foundation for understanding the importance of concise business writing.
This valuable guide is available in both paperback and Kindle versions — buying both is a smart investment.
Of course, a similar mindset is also advisable when preparing an effective press release — as noted above, press releases are usually most successful when restricted to a maximum of 500 words (and shorter is frequently even more effective).
By the way, some press release sites will limit you to a shorter version anyway. A limit varying from 250 to 500 words is imposed on several sites. In a few cases, you can still publish a longer press release on some websites by paying additional fees. But I recommend that you take the self-imposed hint: Keep your press release short and simple.
6 Quotes to Remember About Business Writing and Press Releases
When managers and employees are striving to balance multiple priorities, it can be difficult to remember what is truly important. This balancing act is often easier with the aid of a memorable quotation — here are six that can help to reinforce the ongoing importance of business writing:
- “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” (James Michener)
- “You write to be read. That is the bottom line.” (Jane Yolen)
- “Writing is seeing. It is paying attention.” (Kate DiCamillo)
- “Good writing is clear thinking made visible.” (Bill Wheeler)
- “The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” (Maya Angelou)
- “Writing is the best way to talk without being interrupted.” (Jules Renard)
Both search engines and business clients have rapidly devalued the everyday use of short articles that are not informative.— Stephen Bush
© 2015 Stephen Bush