Many marketers think of press releases as something kind of “over there” …the somewhat mystical domain of PR specialists, subject to arcane and inscrutable rules.

And to an extent, that’s true:  they were arcane, and somewhat rigid … but certainly not inscrutable.  By way of proof, here are some of those historic rules:

  • First, be sure your item is truly news. For a public company, a good test is whether it has at least some potential to move the stock price:  new products (initial announce, first ship, 1,000th customer) and significant new versions thereof;  acquisitions and other new market entries.  Just going to a tradeshow probably doesn’t make the cut (but hey, if you announce a new product there…!).
  • Start with a dateline (city/state and release date), close with an “About ABC Co.” blurb for those unfamiliar with your company, and include a “For further info” contact with phone and email.  Try to keep the whole thing to one page, one and a half if needed.
  • Use high-quality, but simple, language: fairly short declarative sentences;  avoiding (or defining) jargon and acronyms;  understandable by a lay audience;  avoiding bulleted lists.  Keep in mind that much of your audience isn’t familiar with your widget or your market.
  • Be strictly factual and avoid puffery: a good device is trying to write the entire release using zero adjectives.
  • Fairness: if you’re distributing via multiple channels, do your best to light them all up simultaneously;  although it can be tempting, avoid giving favored editors an early-bird special or heads-up.

The new rules

But of course, it’s a new world and things have changed.  Much of the above is still good guidance …although things have relaxed to the point that you will see bullet-lists in lots of releases these days, and you’ll probably see others that will leave you wondering, “How is this news?”  Fortunately, along come the Savvy Sisters to give us the lay of the new PR landscape, in a post on their Savvy B2B Marketing blog…

From Wendy Thomas:

  • Make it easy for the editor/publisher. Write the release so that a publication can drop it in as is, without an extensive rewrite.  Include all pertinent material – photos, identification (with titles) of all quotes, graphs, etc.
  • Work (and re-work) your headline; a real attention-grabber is worth its weight in gold.

From Jamie Wallace:

  • A good release tells a story that’s relevant to the audience.  One really easy way to do this is with a customer story… into which you can weave your product message, with a clear focus on its benefits.
  • Focus on one topic; don’t dilute your important message by throwing in a bunch of unrelated material.  Ensure that every sentence is relevant to the main message, and you’ll be able to make your point.

From Stephanie Tilton:

  • It’s not just for announcing new products. Because releases can raise search engine visibility, use them to inform your audience of your latest knowledge resources (eBooks, white papers, videos, and podcasts.)
  • Check out PitchEngine if you’re interested in distributing releases optimized for social networks.

And finally, from Kate Headen Waddell:

  • Get it published wherever you can. In our “2.0” world, press releases are more about raising online impressions and getting noticed in search results than about getting physical ink.  There are plenty of free posting sites (e.g., and …and don’t forget to post it on your company website, too.
  • Feel free to repurpose that content later for a blogpost, email blast or other customer touch point.

So… follow this guidance, and you’ll fear not the press release;  instead, it can become one of the sharper arrows in your B2B marketing quiver.