Crash Course in Press Release Writing for Internet Retailers

Jason Hulott
by Jason Hulott 03 Dec, 2013

One of the most popular ways to drive interest in a new site or product is the time-honored press release.

Now while you might think simply downloading a PR template and filling in the blanks, then firing it off to as many places as possible will do the trick, truth is, it probably won't. And what's more, it could do you and your brand more harm than good.

Writing and syndicating a press release should be thought of strategically, and be used as part of a much broader marketing campaign.

There are three things you need to think about when writing a press release.

1. What to write about

2. What to do with it once it is written

3. What else you can do to maximize the effectiveness of PR

Let's look at these in turn.

1. What to write about

Simply thinking you have to write a press release because that is what businesses do is probably the wrong way to view it. Most press releases are a response to an activity or planned activity that is going to happen in your business. Ideas for press releases include:

- Product Launches

- New Site Features or Content

- Research - Carry out Industry Research 

- Surveys - Carry out customer surveys and publish the results. Use a service such as Survey Monkey or via email but use Survey Monkey to capture results. If you have a Facebook or LinkedIn Page you can run a poll there too, and collate results

- Comment on something happening in your industry (Yes this one is more reactive, but if you are planning to make a point of responding to the industry you have to make sure you stay aware of what is happening).

As you can see there are a few ideas here, and I am guessing just reading that list has given you at least one idea you can use right now. 

Bonus Idea - Once you have done a survey, you can run another three months or six months later and compare trends, or see how your market has changed. Journalists and Web writers love a statistic. Yes, statistics really are the gift that keeps on giving.

2. What to do with your release once it is written

So now you have your release, now what?

There are many different things you can do to spread your release far and wide. We would suggest investing in a newswire service that can submit your press release to relevant sites and journalists for you. Service such as PRWeb, or PRLeap are well known but there are other services such as 247Pressrelease or OnlinePRNews. All have different syndication levels and options. I am sure you can find one that suits your budget. We have had much success using 24/7 Press Release and OnlinePRNews.

The other thing you can be looking to build for your own PR activities is an outreach list. Look for sites, bloggers and forums in your space that are very active. Most will have news sections or will be looking to keep their readers up to date with what's happening in your industry. Most will be glad for content ideas.  

Your outreach list is what sets you apart from everyone else in your industry. Grow your contact list and reach out initially to ask if they accept press releases and how best to send them. Don't simply bombard a whole bunch of people with your release. Spam is spam after all.

Are there any trade publications or offline magazines in your industry or related industry? Find out if they have a website or look in the magazine for related press or editor contacts. Make a note and then reach out to them to ask the best way to submit press releases to them or the best person to send them to.

3. What else you can do to maximize the effectiveness of PR

So you have the release and are about to send it out. What else can I do to make sure it gets syndicated as far as possible? There are a couple of things that you can do to make your life easier when distributing press releases.

Add a Press room on your site

A press room is a great way to collate and store previous press releases, product information and related media. This can include:

- Supporting Materials - product imagery / videos 

- Archive Releases

- Staff Photos

- Useable Quotes

- Logos in various formats

Supporting documents and information

Providing as much support material as possible will allow journalists and bloggers to easily find what they will need to write about you and your products. The easier you make it for them, the more chance you have of being covered. So make the effort ahead of time. It can also be another way of getting your products or services in front of your audience. Photos can be used on Pinterest and other social media channels. Video can be shared on Youtube or Vimeo, documents on Scribd or Slideshare.  

Bonus Tip - To save time and effort of behalf of journalists, please do not send them your press release with a bucketful of images and files as attachments. Send press releases as text in the body of your email notes and add links to relevant resources on your site so they can download them if they need them. This means your email messages are more likely to get through spam filters and easily opened.  

Press releases are not just for sending to the press or simply for trying to build links for SEO. This is what you tend to see. Press releases can be an integral part of your content marketing strategy to drive direct traffic, links, brand awareness, increase followers on social media and even attract direct sales.    

It can allow you to over time build a list of outreach partners so each press release you create can be syndicated out through your own growing network of contacts. Building your own distribution network is a key driver for online retailers looking to stand out and promote their businesses. It doesn't necessarily take money - but maximizing what you do with what you have.

Hopefully you will also see that crafting and sending a press release does warrant a bit of time and planning to maximize its effectiveness.

About the Author: 

Jason Hulott is Director of SpeedieConsulting, a full-service Internet marketing agency, as well as helping merchants globally grow their affiliate activities via