A press release is a document that tells the story behind your new product and your brand. It gets sent to the media to get them talking about your product to their readers. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-written press release. With the right news angle, shared to the right media publications, thousands or millions of people can learn about your product and why they should buy it.
But writing an effective press release is not easy. Many press releases don’t give customers a reason to believe in the product or brand. They simply list features and benefits. Other times, marketing writers focus on the wrong news angle, causing the story to fall flat.
Every product has a story to tell, otherwise, why would someone go through the trouble of building it? The most important part of writing a press release is finding an angle that resonates with a target audience. If done well, your product can become a household name overnight for your target audience.
Don’t worry. Writing a press release is simple. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Here is a guide for writing press releases that grab the media’s attention and get shared\ to hundreds of thousands of readers.
Headline: This is the sign on the window that tells the media or reader whether to read the press release.
On average, five times as many people read the headline as the body copy. A change in the headline can make the difference between your press release being read or tossed in the delete folder. Use these simple rules in all of your press release headlines:
Summarize why your product matters to the world in one simple sentence or phrase.
Humans are selfish so the first thing we want to know is how does your product help me or something I care about. If you have addressed my needs, I will keep reading past the headline.
Keep your headline to one line of text if possible.
A headline that reads or looks like a paragraph loses its power. Keep the features and benefits for the body text and leave the headline to explain the Why behind the product on a high level.
Use words that trigger an emotion.
Some words make us stop and listen. These words belong in your headline. Don’t exaggerate your product but ensure that you are giving the product credit. For example “joins forces” is better than “cooperates with”. “Reinvents” is better than “innovates”. “Revolutionizing” is better than “changing”.
Bulleted summary: This is where you give busy reporters a bulleted summary on your product so they are more likely to keep reading on.
A block of text can be intimidating. Busy reporters are all pressed for time, so don’t put a block of text directly under the headline. Instead, let them understand the press release with a few bullet points on the main features of our product.
First bullet: Start with one main feature that differentiates your product
If you are refreshing last year’s model, does your technology upgrade on last year’s? If so, how did it improve your customers lives? Do they save time? Save money? Or get better tech this time around? If you are launching a new product, why do your customers need it?
Second and third bullets: What are the supporting features that make this product innovative or upgraded?
Here you can list your sub features and follow each feature with a benefit. For example: “New 144mhz display brings seamless gameplay and fluid, immersive images”
Body text: Write from most important point to least.
Keeping a hierarchal structure tells reporters which product features are most important followed by least important. Reporters will use this as a guide to structure their published articles and communicate the main features and benefits first.
Keep your language simple but professional.
Don’t use fancy words if you can avoid it, but don’t dumb it down either. Strike a delicate balance between informative and readable. If it reads like an academic paper, you’re going to lose any readers who don’t have phDs. If it reads like a middle school textbook, then at least you can grab the attention of anyone who has graduated middle school and above. Just don’t short change your product or story with basic language.
Include an executive quote to bring the story down to the human level
Somewhere around the second or third paragraph, you can include a quote by an executive or CEO. This helps to keep the story grounded, reminding readers on the significance of the press release in conversational language. This quote can describe the story of the product on a high level, using a human, chatty tone on why this is truly a big story. Keep the quote two to four sentences long. The media will include this quote verbatim in their news story so be careful what you say here.
Follow up with primary, secondary, and supporting features and benefits.
The following paragraphs support the headline, bullets, and quote, giving weight to why this is, indeed, an important story.
Don’t worry about adding a closing paragraph or conclusion.
A press release is not a blog article. You can end the press release with pricing info, where customers can order, when products will be released and where, and your PR contacts.
In closing, it’s all about the news angle
The above structure is effective in giving reporters a structure to help them report on your story to their hundreds, thousands, or even millions of readers. But the most important part is the angle. Find out why someone can benefit from what you are selling, tell them why they should care. Then your press release will fly high and reach the eyes of millions.
Personalization in marketing is all the rage now. This is when you open an email and it has your name on it. But I don’t buy it. Sure, it’s nice when Amazon shows other products I may like, but do I really need a bot to say my name at the beginning of an email newsletter? It feels inauthentic at best, creepy at worst.
In a world of automation, productized services, and software as a service, human creativity is getting mass produced and passed off as real. But you can’t play us for fools anymore. Customers are demanding authenticity, not personalization. Stock pics are undermining your efforts to be authentic in your marketing.
Authenticity is when your brand emerges from the pack of competitors and copycats as something real, almost tangible. People want something real. Your customers want something real. And you have something real inside of you to give them. You have your own style of clothes, your own way of speaking, laughing, and your own funky dance moves. That’s why your friends and family love you. If you tried to copy someone else you’d be a fraud and nobody likes a fraud. What if you transfer your authenticity into your brand? Customers are just friends that pay you for your product. They’ll be more likely to stay loyal to you as an authentic brand.
Your customers don’t want their name at the beginning of your email newsletter. They want to know that you write in an authentic style that’s YOUR style.
Your blog article took hours to research and write. You can’t just post it on your company website without an image, right? So you go over to freepix and download the “laughing woman with salad” image, and of course you credit the photographer.
Upload and done. Now click publish.
But what are you really saying with that generic stock pic of the woman laughing holding a salad bowl? I like the blog content but the amateurish stock pic undermines everything you’ve written. As the reader, I feel like you’ve sent over the waiter at Chilis to sing happy birthday to me and my friends — its low effort, annoying, and frankly it’s embarrassing.
Stock picks get used, reused and recycled all over the internet more than your older sister’s text books. They look fake and bring down the quality of your words, even if your article is great. I get it, your blog or social post needs to *pop*. But you wouldn’t just cut and paste your blog content from Wikipedia and post as your own, would you?
Imagine a menu with a lot of delicious pizza dishes on it. Above the name of the dish is a generic stock pic of the pizza. What purpose does it serve? It’s not the restaurant’s pizza. But by keeping the menu text only we can imagine what that delicious pizza will look, and taste like. With a stock pic you are removing the chance for your reader to imagine an image with the text. Instead they are served a cut copy stock image.
So what should you do instead? If your B2B blog post is a menu of sorts on your services, products, or both, you have two options. Take photos of something related to your topic. Or, write in a beautiful and expressive way that brings the images to the reader’s mind. Let him paint a picture of your topic in his head so the reading becomes more enjoyable. But please, whatever you do, put down the stock pics.
A while back I sent a link to a blog post to a colleague because it was filled with useful information related to our business. My colleague read the title, scrolled to the bottom, and clicked the little x to close the blog. My heart sank because it was a blog post that may have helped us solve issues we were dealing with at the moment.
But who has time to read with Facebook, tik-tok, notifications, and a hundred other distractions on and off the internet?
A blog post can do a lot for both businesses that write them and people that read them. But if a tree falls down in the forest and no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound? You know where I’n going here…
To make sure people read your blog post, do these things. If your blog is about business, marketing, a niche product or service, (or anything besides celebrity gossip) then pay special attention to the structure and tone to get people to read it from start to finish.
Start by telling a story
A wise man once said “a story is a gift”. When your tipsy uncle breaks out into a story during a holiday gathering, the table stops and listens. A story can take us away to a faraway place and time. It’s a chance to escape for a minute. Whether you’re blogging about software or trekking in the jungle, use the first paragraph to tell a story that’s relevant to your topic. Anything can become a story. Stand up comics are famous for being able to rant about anything. Summon your inner Seinfeld and tell a story that brings the reader into your next paragraphs.
But stories have rules that we need to follow. They roughly look like this:
- Introduce the hero
- Present a problem
- Tell how the hero solves the problem
- State the new new norm
With these simple rules, you can engage a reader with your story and tie it into your blog post. Don’t spend too much time on the story. Condense it to about one to two paragraphs.
Check if your topic is in the news
Chances are you can tie your blog post to a news story to give it more relevance. If the topic is making headlines it gives your reader a reason to lean in and keep reading. Go to Google and do a Google News search on your keyword. You’ll see somewhere in the world where your story was reported on. Link to this story and tie it into your blog post to give the topic a sense of urgency. It wouldn’t be unimportant if it weren’t on the news.
Introduce your product or service
Now is the time to tie in your product or solution. First connect it to the story in the introduction. Then tie into the international news story. For example if your blogging about your SaaS solution, you can talk about how it solved your client’s problem and then how hundreds or thousands of other people all over the world had a similar problem and need your solution.
Propose a brighter future with your solution
Now that the context has gone from micro (your personal story) to macro ( the news story), you can end the post on an optimistic note and propose a world where everyone has solved this problem (likely with your solution). Include a call to action for a demo or a link with a discount to give people a path towards this brighter future.
With this simple structure, your colleague should take the moment to read to the end of the blog post and learn about the possibility of a brighter future. If you implement the structure and he’s still distracted, then no optimized structure will work and it’s time for a digital detox.
A few years ago I hit a quarter-life crisis. I’d been living and working abroad — bouncing between East Asian countries for years — and I felt burned out and lost.
I couldn’t stay, but I also didn’t want to go home. I stumbled upon a job post on the sketchy Facebook group “Teaching in Thailand” that read: “Teach at British International School in Thai Island”.
A Google search on the Thai island showed white beaches with turquoise water and pink-orange sunsets. The blogs spoke of a friendly expat community, and cheap everything. The school’s website made it seem reputable and well funded. Does it get any better than this? It was the perfect next step in my career.
Trouble in Paradise
When I landed at the island’s small airport, I should have taken the surprisingly rude taxi driver as an omen. Life on my new island home deteriorated fast.
Coworkers at the school weren’t just cliquey, they were tribal. Friday evenings were lonesome. Dating was out of the question in a place full of either male sexpats with beer bellies, or their natural counterparts — the working girls. But getting settled takes time, I thought to myself.
Actually, I wasn’t alone for long, with several uninvited guests visiting me in my small rental house. I encountered a glossy black scorpion as he crawled across my living room, an arm-sized gecko hanging from the shower curtain — and I found out the hard way about the fire-ants nesting in my underwear drawer. “All part of living in paradise”, I told myself.
I was excited to check out the beaches. There were several scenic spots I’d learned about while doing some Googling before the move.
And therein lied my downfall.
I figured theres no need to visit the island before making a move. The internet has all the info I need. I used blogs, travel websites, and Facebook groups to research the location before committing to the move, but I hadn’t stop to think how accurate these sources were.
HI (Human Intelligence) vs AI
No matter how many sophisticated algorithms Google uses to rank websites to bring the most relevant searches to the top, human intelligence (HI) still trumps AI. There’s nothing better than asking a real human who’s been to a place to get advice. Thinking of studying architecture? Ask an architect. Looking for a good movie to see Friday night? Ask your buddy to recommend one. Can’t find your old childhood drawings? Ask Mom. Trusting the online sources only lead me to discover those “white sand” beaches covered in trash.
It’s not Google’s fault. After all, how could the algorithms possibly verify the accuracy of ALL that information?
An Idea is born
So what’s a better place to get your information from, particularly about moving and living abroad? From HI sources, aka other humans. I decided to take on a mission to bring human intelligence to the forefront.
The Mission: Share living and working abroad information to pull back the curtain of what it’s really like to live abroad
My Thailand fail ended in me leaving the island and moving back to East Asia with a plan: Build the world’s first dedicated information sharing gateway for living and working abroad. It’s a place where seasoned expats, frequent international travelers, and those thirsty for adventure can share the true story of what it’s like to live and work abroad through questions and answers, upvoting, newbie meetups, and more.
For starters, you can learn what life is like on a Thai island, not from a blog sponsored by a travel agency, but from a real person who’s been there. The platform is currently under construction and launching summer 2019, but if you found this article clap-worthy, feel free to sign up as a beta tester here: journeyfoxx.com.
And if you happen to be living on a beautiful Thai island, check if anything is moving inside the drawer before getting dressed. Hopefully that will save you from discovering fire ants in your underwear before it’s too late.
As I kid I loved video games. I would lie in my bed at night thinking about them. I was addicted to role playing games where you controlled a character during a long journey, and had to buy supplies, chat with villagers, and organize your inventory. These tedious things took hours. What was I thinking? As I lay in bed, my thinking eventually shifted, to a new idea: what if instead of gaming, I had a huge project I could slowly chip away at. When I completed it, how good would it feel?
Two years ago, looking for my adult version of a role playing game, I Googled “How to make a social network.” I came across a Udemy course by a brilliant young Microsoft engineer named Reece Kenney. I bought his course for ten dollars and sure enough, it was a step-by-step video tutorial on how to code and build a social network — complete with profiles, a wall, chatting, and all the basic functionality of a modern social platform.
I thought, here is my impossibly huge project. I will follow Reece’s Udemy course until I learn how to code and complete building my own social network. So I got to work.
The problem was I hated coding. I gave it a good try too. For months, I spent hours each day learning php, html and CSS — following each of my instructor’s video modules. In the end, even his charming British accent wasn’t enough to ease the pain of learning to code.
I knew I could accelerate the whole process if I knew someone who could code. So I sent the course to a software engineer friend, and she built the entire course within a day. Boom, I had my own social network!
But somehow that felt way too easy. So we started discussing new features that could help a group of people. We decided to do away with the Udemy course (sorry Reese!) and build our own platform from scratch.
With the project scope getting bigger, we needed to expand the team — a UI/UX designer, a frontend developer, then a backend developer. Before I knew it, I was managing a full development team on a major web project.
There’s already a Facebook for everyone and their mother (literally), and there’s already a LinkedIn for cubicle warriors. How about a social network for people who like to travel and live abroad? Bingo.
But what do travelers and expats like me need, besides Ambien?
Information. The word “abroad” is synonymous with “black hole of uncertainty”. You can only glimpse through to the other side from watching movies, receiving postcards, and reading blogs. How about a platform that lets users ask people who have been abroad the questions that make living and travel abroad more transparent?
So the platform’s Q&A homepage was born
We created a homepage where users can login, and ask detailed questions and send them to other members who’ve been to one country. What about a profile page? Not a boring one with my resume on it, but a profile that’s like a passport, with a timeline of countries I’ve visited. Then members could show off all the awesome places they’ve been. And friends and other members could ask questions, discuss, and learn about those places from someone who’s been there and done that.
And how about a way to comment so we can all join in on the discussion, even if we don’t have the answer? And a panic button — so when you have an urgent question about a visa about to expire, or how to survive if you run out of gas driving through the Australian outback, you can dig yourself out of that hole. Meanwhile, someone else who had the answer can feel like Spider Man saving the day.
Then questions and answers organized by topics so you can get the latest info on retiring in Mexico, or where to eat spicy ma-la hot pot in Western China.
So there you have it. This is my impossible project. Two years later the platform is almost done. We are now looking for beta testers here.
When it’s done, I’ll be able to say I made a thing (with more than a little help from some friends), and the it can help a group of people who love to travel. You could use it to feel like Spider Man after sending a helpful answer to someone stranded in the Outback.
Throughout the whole process, I’ve realized that impossible projects ARE like playing role playing games in a way. You keep leveling up by building better features, new teammates join the journey, and together you defeat harder and harder bosses. In between you need to chat with villagers and collect supplies — all with the goal of playing until you beat the game.
When I was about to graduate college, I got offered a job in China as an English teacher. I hadn’t even thought about going to China until that moment, but the job offer landed right in my inbox so I couldn’t refuse.
No application or interview. No experience necessary. It even included a free plane ticket, dated right after my graduation day. I spent my childhood living abroad in South America as a “government brat”, so I had been wanting to get back overseas ever since — far from the strip malls and golf courses of suburban Florida.
I was fresh out of college and excited about living and working abroad, but at the last minute I hesitated. I decided to cancel the opportunity because there were too many risks, doubts, and questions about living and working in China. I didn’t speak a word of Chinese, I didn’t know anyone in China, and I had never been a teacher.
I mentioned my change of plans to my dad and he gave me the push I needed, telling me I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t go. So a few days later I packed my bags and got on that plane.
Today, 13 years later, I realize the anxiety before a long trip can be avoided thanks the internet. In a connected world, anyone should be able to use the web to reach out to an expat, a local, or a traveler and ask: “So, hey, what’s it like to work in China? Is it cool?”. What an amazing tool that would be, if there were one.
It could be a platform where I could send a question and get the scoop on all the exotic locations around the world. It would let me learn about traveling, living, and working abroad from the people who have been there and done that., It would cover topics for solo travelers on how to travel off the beaten path, for retirees on how to buy property in Mexico, and other topics for everyone in between. It would be the platform for anyone who wants to see the world.
I could ask about volunteering in Cambodia, something I’d always wanted to do but heard a lot of shady stories about, or one of my other dreams — running a hostel in Thailand. Send a question, get an answer back, and learn how people are making the best out of living and working abroad.
That first job offer in China that landed in my inbox was too good to be true. I was in a pretty bad situation just two months after arriving in the northern province of Shandong. I quit the job due to the poor living and working conditions and found myself alone, unemployed, and being threatened in an authoritarian country. They even threatened to throw me in Chinese jail for something along the lines of breach of contract.
In the end it all worked out, but had I known what I know now, after 13 years living and working abroad, I would’ve done things very differently and saved myself a lot of trouble.
Is there a platform for asking living and travel abroad questions?
There are actually a few out there, but they tend to have other agendas, like selling hotel rooms and tour services, or feature Instagram copycat style photo albums. These platforms have Q&A sections hidden behind the money-making features, to their detriment. On top of that, the kind of traveler I’d like to reach out to with my travel questions wouldn’t be on one of these pushy platforms.
She or he would rather be rubbing elbows with other travelers and locals in a dive bar in Nepal, or writing his own memoirs from the beach in Koh Tao. But inside his or her brain lives valuable knowledge on how to get around, meet the locals, rent an apartment, or start a business in a place with different rules than those in Florida. If only I could pick his brain.
I’m scratching my own itch now by adding the finishing touches to Journeyfoxx, the kind of platform that I wish existed 13 years ago when I had a plane ticket to China in my hand and head full of questions. Even today, I will be using the platform to learn more about that hostel idea I had. It just might determine my next big move.
I have never played the card game, but the Cards Against Humanity e-store is one of the best e-commerce websites around.
Your website or e-store is a chance to build your brand by setting your business apart and giving your customers a memorable experience. The company behind the hugely popular Cards Against Humanity card game created a special shopping experience that brings the game and brand into the e-store.
It also succeeds in several key metrics. It makes you want to buy the game, it’s so easy to use that a three-year old could place an order, and it entertains.
For business owners and web masters, the company makes a strong case for skipping template e-commerce builders like Shopify and building your own custom website from the ground up. Here are a few things we can learn from their web-store. .
Add useful features that make money
Just the fact that I can “Add one of everything to my cart” with one button is hilarious. But it’s also smart. There are 35 items you can buy so it would be pretty excessive to order “one of everything”, and that’s part of the genius. People will push that button because they can. Among those people, there will be customers who reach checkout and buy everything, again, just because they can.
That’s a 292 Euro purchase with the click of a button, making for a 1000% up-sell. Pretty damn good considering the main product cost 25 Euros.
Destroy unnecessary barriers to payment like your life depends on it
On their e-store, the shopping cart is always displayed in front of you, just like pushing a cart at the supermarket. It’s there as a banner that hovers on the bottom of the shop screen. This means you don’t need to click a shopping cart icon in the corner and wait for it to load to see what you’re buying and how much you’re paying. The cart is updated in real time as you keep browsing.
An integrated shopping cart is one less hoop towards checkout, and when building online shopping experiences, you want to remove as many hoops as possible before the customer changes his mind and spends his money on something reasonable.
Write copy that makes your website easier to use
Does copy still matter to make the experience better? We’d like to think the two should live and work together. Heck, some companies were built on effective copy alone. Just ask David Ogilvy.
Use copy to inspire purchasing decisions as below. “Pay Now” is better than “Go to checkout” because I don’t want to go to checkout. I just want to pay for my stuff. Checkout is a dark place where I have to stand in line next to crying babies while the cashier waits for a store manager to come over to do a price check on a bag of avocados. But Pay Now gives me power. Money for goods sold means I can get the thing I want, not sit in checkout purgatory.
Heck, write better copy everywhere!
Cards Against Humanity are a group of comedy writers. It’s clear they wrote the website copy and made it funny when they could have made it straightforward and boring. This makes it fun to browse around the website and read their product descriptions.
The English language is fluid like water. Shape it to control people’s willingness to buy. See how they do it here, and from now on write product descriptions that people want to read.
Make your header menu ridiculously simple
Reduce menu items like About Us, Home, and anything that’s not essential. Why add a home button if the home icon can take you Home? Why add About Us if the user can learn about the company through text and images displayed on the home page.
Cards Against Humanity has a menu with just two links: Contact us and FAQ. It doesn’t even want you to use the Contact Us link because there’s no reason to contact them unless you’ve read the FAQ. The lack of a menu means customers can stay focused on the products and purchasing. That’s why you made the e-store in the first place. Customer’s shouldn’t be “navigating” the website like a ship’s mate holding a map in the rain during rough seas. They should be buying stuff.
Add fun icons
With all the notifications, pop ups, and distractions on the screen at any given moment, helping the user find what she needs fast is crucial. Icons give customers a reason to skip reading and find what they’re looking for even faster. So while you’re at it, choose icons that are fun and original.
This may not be suitable for certain industries, but you can get creative when adding icons to your website or e-store. Flaticon.com has thousands of free and paid icons you can add to your website to represent almost anything.
Final thoughts: Custom web design can grow your brand
Web design used to be an art form. After all the word “design” is in there. My team and I may be labeled as grumpy old traditionalists for encouraging the old way of building websites instead of Shopify and WordPress. But there are real benefits to your business when you can control every aspect of your website with custom web design.
Make your website uniquely yours. Build it the way you want. Then let the website grow with your brand. Add features as your business grows or remove them as the market evolves. Build a website that exactly fits your brand and product’s needs. Make it specifically for your quirky customer rather than taking shortcuts. Delight your customers by making web design an extension of your brand, even if you have to hire a group of comedy writers to do it.
Last week at an outdoor cafe, I struck up a conversation with a young guy sitting across from me. He was sipping a latte with his laptop open, giving off the carefree vibe of someone who travels the world making money online. Sure enough I was right. He’d been running several e-commerce websites for years and had made Taipei his temporary home.
During our chat, he started complaining that competitors with hedge fund managers as investors were burying his business by pumping huge amounts of cash into ads. As someone who keeps my finger on the pulse of digital marketing (should we just remove the word “digital” from “digital marketing” by now?) I asked him if organic SEO is dead in 2020. He gave me a firm “yes.” It was a yes of resignation, knowing that his competitors ate him alive with their deep pockets.
Weeks later, I found myself at dinner again sitting across from a young guy who runs several sports betting blogs. I asked him the same question after recapping my story from the previous week: “Is SEO dead in 2020?” His reply was “In 2010, the everyone was saying SEO is dead, and even in 2000 people were saying SEO is dead.” He then went on to talk about a couple of new blogs he was planning to launch this summer.
So is organic SEO dead or not? It depends who you ask. Everyone is using different strategies, with different products, and putting in different amounts of hours towards SEO. So, organic SEO might be dead if you’re selling in a huge niche like T-shirts and getting the word out through your WordPress site. But what if you’re selling ozone and hydrogen water purifying systems?
I want to take a moment to redefine what SEO means in 2020. It used to mean writing a 2,000 blog word article and sprinkling your keywords evenly, like Himalayan sea salt on a steak. This version of SEO is indeed dead and buried six feet under.
What SEO looks like in 2020 is totally different. We can even interchange the word SEO with “marketing strategy”. If you want Google to find you, you’ll need more than a website. You’ll need several marketing channels pointing towards your website like a squad of fighter jets going into a dog fight. One jet will get easily overwhelmed but when you send in the squadron, you can overtake your enemy and win — with the right strategy of course.
That means deploying a website that’s optimized to be ranked on Google, a Facebook fan page, a LinkedIn account or Instagram presence, a steady flow of educational blog content, and as a bonus, a PR strategy. On top of that, you’ll need to refine your marketing and brand messaging so it resonates for a specific target audience and stirs their emotions. When these are firing on all cylinders, you’ll see Google recognize your hard work and your website will float to the top. That’s SEO in 2020.
Should we replace the word SEO with simply “marketing strategy”, and throw this overused three letters away? At minimum, we need to change the way we think about SEO. There’s over one billion blogs, or one blog published for every seven people on earth. The competition for views on your website is unimaginable. However, how many of these blogs have a marketing strategy and a razor sharp message that resonates with a specific target audience? How many of them are pumping out educational content and keeping up with social channels, while releasing new products that people want?
If this is your strategy, then you certainly have a fighting chance.