Eleven Tips on Writing Press Releases Effectively for Marketing Your Software

Here's a quick post with some suggestions for press releases. I hope they are of use. Please leave any comments afterwards about your experiences or ideas.

1. Make your press release interesting enough that people will want to publish it.

When you publish a press release, some websites will just automatically pick it up and publish it as-is, even if it's not that interesting.  However, you should try for more than that — the more respectable publications will only pick up the interesting stories, so give them something to write about!  This goes for Twitter also; if you have an interesting story, people will tweet about it!

2. Topics for a press release

Obviously when you release a new app, you'll want to send out a press release.  But there are so many more opportunities to do something newsworthy and announce it.  Updates to existing software titles.  Announcements of new people on your team.  A special sale (especially if it's interesting somehow).  A milestone you are celebrating.  A charity drive.  A bundle you are participating in. Announcements of upcoming events.  The launch of a new website.  An award you have just won.  The availability of a new downloadable item that complements your product.  A new or updated SDK for your application.  A really big new client who has started using your software.  A give-away (software or otherwise) you are doing.

3. Think Search Engine Optimization (SEO) when crafting your press release

Since your press release will (hopefully) generate some permanent inbound links to your website, you should take advantage of this to help searchers, and search engines, find you.  Use keywords in the links to your website. (E.g. "Sandvox Website Builder" rather than just "Product URL").  Make use of some keywords that people may be searching for in the body of your release, a few times (but don't do so in a way that makes the press release sound odd!)  Put keywords into the header/title of the press release, since that will end up in the <title> and <h1>/<h2> tags on many websites, which is important for SEO.  (And put the important keywords near the beginning in case the title gets truncated.)  Make sure your press release summary also contains some good keywords, since that text will often end up in listings pages, meta description tags, and so forth.

4. Easy and Inexpensive Service: PRMac

For the Mac software developer, PRMac is an easy starting point.  They are inexpensive, and they have very good coverage in the Mac news community - almost 300 outlets as of this writing. (Please use this link if you sign up for an account so I can earn a few "PR points.")  Seven years ago we used a hand-compiled list, but eventually moved over to PRMac to send out those press releases and have never looked back.  Ray Barber is very responsive and helpful, and apparently never sleeps.

5. Try other press services as well

Even though PRMac will reach the Mac community very well, it might be worth trying some of the other Press Release services for a variety of reasons.  One is that you might want to try to reach out beyond the standard Mac community.  (You probably want to do this for a major release or something really interesting; it's not likely that a maintenance release is going to be that newsworthy outside of the Mac-o-sphere.)  Another is just to try to build up more inbound links to your website for SEO purposes.  There are many services and they are all much more expensive than PRMac.  A few services I've found are PRWeb, PRNewsWire, BusinessWire, MarketWire, GlobeNewswiree-releases, 24-7 Press Release, and EmailWire.

Many of these aren't very-upfront about their pricing, and I haven't found any really good (and neutral) comparison of the various services, so you will probably want to proceed cautiously as you try these services, and try to come up with a way you can measure how effective they were in generating inbound links.

There are also a number of free press release sites. I don't know if they are very effective, but you might want to try one or another every so often, perhaps in parallel with a PRMac distribution. (If you have any particular favorites, please mention in them in the comments.)

6. Write your press release in a standard format

Press releases are supposed to follow a standard format.  That doesn't mean you are locked in stone, but a good release should roughly follow the expected format so that your release is easy for the press to read and digest, and either print as-is, or re-write into their own original story.  Remember, these are supposed to be news, not sales pitches, so avoid the superlatives and the breathless excitement. Many of the press release services have some good lists of tips, for instance this one from PRWeb. PRMac has a number of tips for writing press releases in their members' section.

7. Post often, but not too often

Every time you post a press release you will probably see a spike in sales for a day or two.  So it's probably good for your business to post more often than not.  However, I have heard of companies that post updates so often, that it gets tiresome.  You don't want to wear out your welcome, do you?  I think that any more often than about once a month per product is probably too much.  If you have a lot of products, you probably want to space those press releases out to not be more often than once every week or two.  Your results may vary, but my intuition is that too often may be more damaging in the long run than not often enough!

8. Get to know the press

You can send out press releases until you are blue in the face, but if nobody in the Mac press knows who you are, you won't get picked up by any sites other than the ones that just pick up all the news stories.  Get to know the folks who are running the blogs and the news sites in the Mac community (and, if applicable, any other communities that your software intersects with).  If you haven't watched Adam Engst's presentation "Hacking the Press"  now is a good time to do so!

How do you get to know members of the press? Be a nice person, and hopefully not a shy person, and say hi when you see them at a conference or expo. Comment on their stories and blog posts with helpful notes — not pitches for your product! Interact with them on Twitter where appropriate. Give them peeks of your software if you get a chance. Be inventive, but not annoying!

9. Monitor your coverage

You probably want to see how effective your press release was.  You can use automated services like TweetBeep and Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your product.  (It's probably worth looking at the mentions to see if they are automated, or if somebody actually took the time to notice your press release and write about it.)  You could also use services like Google Analytics to see where inbound traffic to your website is coming from, or Google Webmaster Tools / Yahoo Site Explorer to see what new links on the web are pointing to your site as a result of your press release.

10. Have a 'newsroom' on your website

Have a place on your website that the media can find if they want to do a story on your company or your products.  It could feature archives of your press releases, mentions of prominent press coverage, white papers, newsletters, staff biographies, high resolution photos of you, your software, and anything else that might be useful, very clear media contact information, cross-links to your other main pages, and anything else that a journalist (in the Mac press or otherwise) might find useful.  Be sure to include good "alt" tags on your images so your images can be found with image search.

(We have a press section here, though it's a bit outdated; I need to follow my own advice a bit!)

11. Get some help

Writing code might be your forte, but maybe writing press releases isn't. Find somebody to help you who is good at it — or at the least, to proofread what you wrote and test your links. You don't want something silly and embarrassing to be propagated all over the web!

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