PRs and SEOs love press releases. You get an SEO boost, earning links from journalists in your space across a bunch of different sites. And you get traditional PR benefits. But focusing on your press page could bring much bigger dividends.
Think of a press page in the context of broader strategy. If you’re emailing and phoning publications trying to get yourself or your client mentioned, you’re doing ‘outbound PR’ – the PR equivalent of cold calling. Surprise, surprise: journalists don’t really like it, and as Bloomberg’s David Lynch warns, ‘you’re going to strike out most of the time.’
A press page represents inbound PR: journalists come looking for this information to write their stories. The story might not be about you, but there’s often still a place for you in it. That means if you do your press page right, you’ll end up with content that someone else wants to professionally promote for you on high-authority sites that a lot of people visit and trust.
As Tim Donnelly explains, when journalists want to find you, they have two basic things in mind.
Sometimes they want to talk to an official at your company about product releases, company news or trends in the industry. Other times, they’re looking for info from a bunch of different companies for depth and balance or looking for an expert in the field for a broader story.
‘Especially in that second case,’ says Donnelly, ‘you want the media to be able to navigate your website quickly and find out if the experts at your company are what they’re looking for. After that, you need to make sure reporters and editors can get everything they need—from contact information to photos—quickly and seamlessly.’
What Does a Great Press Page Look Like?
Most press pages are let down by being tough to find, hard to navigate or uninformative. If your press page doesn’t deliver what journalists want, they’ll go elsewhere, and so will the benefits of press coverage.
As Datify’s Lizzie Benton says, ‘you’ve got to remember that there are lots of other businesses like you wanting the same coverage, and if you can’t deliver what they want, when they want, you may as well forget about it.’
So who has a great press page?
Instagram’s is pretty solid.
It’s easy to navigate from page to page. You’re fairly sure what you’re looking at and what to expect from each page. This is important: journalists know what a press page is, so the more extraneous waffle you have, the more they have to wade through to reach the good stuff.
MapBox offers a super easy navigation based on what the journalist wants rather than on the type of information – a definite plus point.
If you were looking for a quick intro to what MapBox is all about, or some images for an article, you would know exactly where to go.
Make It Easy To Find
Casual website visitors are notoriously impatient. How much more impatient do you think a journalist on deadline will be? If you want your press materials to be used, make them easy to find. If you have the space, put the press section in your top menu.
If you can’t put it there, put it in a sidebar or bottom menu. Tech journalist Dan Ryans says, ‘Don’t make me hunt for it or bury it under “Company” or “About” or (worst of all) “Investor Relations.”
Asana put theirs at the bottom, under ‘About’ (Sorry, Dan!) but it’s still easy to find. To reach it, you only have to click one link.
The aim should always be to reduce the amount of scrolling, clicking and searching a journo has to do to reach your pics and press releases.
Give them what they want.
What materials are journalists hoping to find when they visit your press page?
Label them clearly, keep them separate from ‘in the news’ and make it clear what each one’s about.
Make them accessible. If your press release is a locked PDF, it’s tougher to copy and paste. Make it an HTML document that journalists can easily grab text from.
What should be in a press release?
Anatomy Of a Killer Press Release
Brevity and clarity are the keys here. No-one who reads your press release should be in any doubt at all about:
- Who your company is
- What you do
- What just happened
- Who any quotes belong to and what their role is in the organization
Journalists are looking for quotes, stats and images, so make your press release easy to scan, and make the different elements stand out.
Stats box: Put all the major stats together and clearly label them. Journalists want to copy and paste, not hunt and squint.
Infographics: Ready-made, branded imagery that explains something important in the space? Journalists will grab that with both hands.
Boilerplate. The part that would be the same in every press release.
You need a section where you explain who you are and what you do – basically, a truncated version of your ‘About Us’ page. Boilerplate copy ‘contains the information you want readers to know about your brand,’ says Susan Paynton, ‘such as how long you’ve been in business, where you’re located, what you specialize in, any awards you’ve won, major clients you work with, and your website link.’
Check out Amazon’s press release for a major adoption of AWS by California Polytechnic:
The ‘About Amazon’ section is the boilerplate. Put this at the bottom and consider making it available separately.Put this at the bottom and consider making it available separately.
Block quotes: Make key quotes jump out if you want to see them in magazines, newspapers and blogs. Reporters like to use quotes from voices in an industry to give their readers balanced insight. They’ll raise a question, then invite a source to speak. The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukayama wrote:
“How do you advertise a color TV on black-and-white televisions? It requires people walking down to main street and seeing it for themselves,” said Steve Bowler, president and co-founder at VR game developer CloudGate Studio.’
Tsukayama calls on several other voices in the industry to explain why VR is taking so long to really take off. The article would be a let less meaty without these perspectives. But on a deadline, reporters don’t have time to hunt for the quote they need to underscore their point, enlighten their readers or move their story along. So make it jump out at them with prominent block quotes on your press page and in individual releases.
When you write your press release copy, don’t spray your enthusiasm at the press. What they’re looking for is facts, figures, quotes and statements. ‘Basically,’ advises startup PR Oliver Griffin, ‘stick to the facts, avoid exclamation marks and adjectives.’
In The News
There’s nothing wrong with having this stuff, just don’t mix it up with your own press releases. If your brand isn’t making impressive appearances in the news, you might want to hold off on this. GigSky gets it right. Here’s their Press Page:
Check out how they foreground images and press releases. Principles of good design make them super easy to find.
‘In the news’ is there, but right at the bottom of the page – the priority most press users would assign to it. ‘As a PR professional and as a writer, I really like to see an archive of recent press coverage,’ says Mark Shapiro. This is a useful section for sales to leverage too, but they’ll be directing people to it. Don’t make it compete with press releases for journalists’ attention.
You wouldn’t build a content strategy around an imageless approach, offering only walls of text. Consumer audiences are more hungry for images than ever before. And journalists have that same audience. If they want a photo, a quote and a couple of figures related to someone in your space, make sure they can get it all from you. You want images of:
Check out Apple’s press page:
There are slick, high-quality graphics on each release. Click through to a specific release and you get image-heavy, clear press releases that emphasize aspects of the product and illustrate them.
And there’s no need for journalists to take screenshots or figure out how to grab those images: at the bottom of the press release, just above the boilerplate, you’re offered the option to download them all in 1000+ px sizes.
Products shouldn’t just be shown in isolation: they should be shown in action. Remember that this is a place where you and your user (the journalist) want the same thing: to distribute shots of your product or service being used, as widely as possible.
Key Team Members
Try to have them doing things, as well as standard headshots. Check out how SXSW does it:
Images of execs standing at podiums or gripping and grinning are in short supply. Instead, speakers are shown speaking, listening and thinking.
You probably didn’t launch any rockets recently…
…but whatever you did do, have a couple of photos of it if you want journalists to talk about it.
Have background-free PNGs of your logo in a few different sizes. Journalists aren’t taking your JPEGs and “Photoshopping” all the white background (or doing a lot of resizing), so offer standard sizes.
Check out how GitHub does it:
Notice that they also include a list of dos and don’ts to guide users in how they’d prefer their logos to be used.
Web forms aren’t the best choice here. Instead, offer an email address that leads to the inbox of a real person. The sticking point here is the journalist thinking, ‘is anyone going to read this and get back to me in time?’ Remember you’re dealing with someone who has lots of options and a hard deadline. ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ or ‘email@example.com’ says ‘no-one checks this.’ Use a name:
For extra points, add a direct phone number. Again, you’re going to lose out if it’s the main switchboard – the journalist doesn’t want to be on the line while their imaginary, worst nightmare klutzy intern figures out how to put them through. Non-press people are unlikely to call this number, but if it’s a concern, do what Google does and make it clear that press means press.
If you’re including a phone number, say when the phone is likely to be picked up. If you’re in New England and your journalist is calling from the South China Sea, this matters a lot.
If you’re trying to create a great press page, or improve the one you already have, the most important thing to remember is what the user wants: keep it clear and concise, focus on the facts and make everything super easy to find. Don’t forget images!