This guest post is by Erika Gimbel, a Chicago freelance writer.
If you’re an ace at writing blog copy, you can write an excellent press release. Both have many of the same elements: strong headlines, top-down format (most important stuff up front), etc. You already know that press releases are a powerful way to promote your blog, and they’re an effective way to get your message out without duplicating content.
So, if you’re ready to put your news out there, here’s some basic steps to re-writing your blog post into a press release. To get started, take a newsworthy blog post and…
1. Make sure it’s news
A press release has to announce something. Unlike most blog posts, it’s not commentary, a how-to guide or a numbered list. However, the following blog post topics would work perfectly as the basis for a press release:
- launch of a new company
- client success story (“Client Doubles Income After Completing Online Course”)
- new product, service or event announcement (e-book, webinar, meetup, seminar)
- awards, either that you’ve won or awarded to others (invent some!)
- new employees/hires/contributors
- milestones (one year in business, subscriber growth of 500%, etc.)
- survey results
If you don’t have any of the above news, come up with your own, like predictions (“ProBlogger Announces Top Blogging Predictions for 2012”), or a response to current news (“Company Provides Immediate SEO Assistance for Google’s New Algorithm”).
2. Change everything to the third-person voice
Both the headline and the body of the press release should be in the third person. Instead of “we” or “I” use the company name. Instead of “you” use “customers,” or “clients.”
3. Revise the headline
Both blog posts and press releases ideally should have keywords within the first few words of the headline. Unlike most blog posts, press releases also have a subhead, which either emphasizes the headline’s point-of-difference—whyyour news is so important—or provides factual backup for the headline.
To format the headline and subhead…
PRESS RELEASE HEADLINE: IN ALL CAPS
Subhead in Title Case, Except the Little, Non-Important Words
4. Rearrange the post to contain these press release elements
- Dateline: If you use a press release distribution service they’ll make sure you get this right, but if you’re writing it on your own, the format is: “CITY NAME [all caps], State abbreviation (Month Day, Year) – “ So as an example, you’d have “POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y., (Aug. 31, 2011) – [First sentence starts here.]”
- Lead: The main news. You can be creative with your first sentence, but make sure you get the who, what, where, why and how in the first paragraph. Your keyword/s should be in the lead as well as the headline.
- Quote: A quote isn’t required, but it always helps to illuminate the press release and give it some personality. Go ahead and use “I”s and “you”s here. The quote is usually the second paragraph, but again, not required.
- Boilerplate: At the end of every press release, include a short paragraph about the company, again in the third person. Your website and phone number go here, too.
5. Get familiar with AP Style, at least the basics
AP (Associated Press) Style is the writing blueprint for journalism—every grammar and punctuation question you have, the AP Stylebook has the answer. When I’m working on press releases, several unique-to-AP rules come up again and again.
For example, the AP Stylebook says that state names should be shortened like the old-fashioned mailing names. Florida is not FL, it’s Fla. And some cities are so well known (Chicago, Denver) that it’s not necessary to include the state. “Email” doesn’t have a hyphen but “e-commerce” does.
For a concise guide to the most relevant AP style notes, see this online AP Style guide from Purdue. AP continues to update its guidelines, so for the latest you can follow the AP Stylebook on Twitter.
6. Look at other people’s releases
Many do not follow the “third person” and “AP Style” advice that I recommend (you’ll spot them right away … they look like blog posts), but please take a few minutes format your press release this way: it reflects expertise and professionalism, and in the end, isn’t that the image you want to portray with your blog?
Have you converted a blog post into a press release? What else would you recommend?
Erika Gimbel is a Chicago freelance writer who writes press releases as well as articles, brochures, newsletters, websites and blog posts for business and nonprofit clients. She loves helping clients figure out what to write about: if you’re stuck for topics, download her free report, 50 Ideas for Business Articles and Blog Posts.